LIVE VIDEO: Channel 3 News at 6 p.m.    Watch
 

Company's ties to Pilot questioned in settlement deal

9:55 AM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The man who formed the corporation now seeking to settle multiple lawsuits against Pilot Flying J heads a trucking association of which Pilot is a member and major contributor.

Lane Kidd, an Arkansas resident, filed incorporation papers for National Trucking Financial Reclamation Services LLC on April 22, just days after the FBI conducted a widely publicized raid on Pilot's Knoxville headquarters.

Two days later, National Trucking filed the class-action suit leading to the proposed settlement. That led other trucking companies to argue in court filings that Kidd's firm was a "shell" company, "hastily conjured in Arkansas" for resolving the civil cases against Pilot, which has been accused by federal authorities of cheating trucking companies out of promised rebates.

Kidd also is the head of the Arkansas Trucking Association, which counts Pilot as a major contributor and a member. In fact, the two corporations share the same office suite in Little Rock, Ark., according to corporate and tax records.

The relationship between Kidd and Pilot came to light as lawyers for some trucking companies question the so-called global settlement, defined as one that would settle all civil claims against the company.

In one filing this week in Knoxville, Drew McElroy, the attorney for Atlantic Coast Carriers and three other trucking firms, charged that National Trucking was a "shell corporation" that shouldn't qualify to be part of the class action.

"National Trucking is not a trucking company and has never bought a gallon of fuel from Pilot," the motion states.

Kidd could not be reached for comment.

A Pilot spokeswoman acknowledged that the truck stop chain is a member of the Arkansas Trucking Association but said Pilot had nothing to do with the filing of incorporation papers for National Trucking, the lead plaintiff in the Arkansas suit.

In a separate motion filed Aug. 14 in an Alabama federal court, the attorney for Wright Transportation, Stephen M. Tunstall, made an almost identical charge -- that National Transportation was "a shell company recently formed" and that it was not a trucking company or a customer of Pilot.

Pilot's attorneys had petitioned a federal court in Alabama to put the Wright case on hold pending a settlement in Arkansas, but a magistrate judge rejected that request earlier this week.

Wright's lawyers say the so-called settlement does nothing more than give the trucking companies what had been offered publicly by Pilot CEO James A. Haslam himself outside of any court action.

"Following the unsealing of the FBI affidavit and the execution of the search warrant," the Wright motion states, "the defendants went into damage control."

Although Pilot's lawyers said the proposed agreement was a "global, class-wide settlement of all claims," the motion states, "Wright Transportation and other plaintiffs were unaware of any such discussion."

Kidd's association, which is incorporated as a nonprofit, publishes a magazine, the Arkansas Trucking Report, which includes frequent references to Pilot and the fact that the Knoxville truck stop firm is a Gold contributor to the association's annual conferences.

An article in the April 2012 issue of the magazine states that Pilot is a corporate member of the association.

After the settlement was proposed, the magazine published an article with the heading, "We're glad that Mr. Haslam stepped up and did the right thing." The quote came from a statement made by National Trucking's attorney, Michael Roberts.

On Monday, Pilot attorney Aubrey Harwell issued a statement supporting the proposed settlement and quoted one of the attorneys involved in the case as saying it was "the best settlement he ever negotiated."

"It provides that all Pilot Flying J customers who are owed money will be paid quickly, every dollar owed plus interest," Harwell wrote.

Under the agreement, lawyers for the trucking companies will share in fees totaling as much as $14 million. For Pilot, meanwhile, having the cases consolidated in one court would spare the company the expense of defending itself in multiple courts across the country. More than 20 suits have been filed.

Kidd, who is in the midst of a federal bankruptcy case with his wife, Jennifer, earned $194,729 from the association in the most recent fiscal year, according to the association's tax returns.

The tax returns also show that Kidd's wife heads a publishing company, Matthews Publishing Group, which gets paid by the association with annual fees ranging from $74,852 to $221,824.

Kidd also is registered with the state of Arkansas as a lobbyist for the trucking association, Arkansas state records show.

 

Walter F. Roche Jr.
The Tennessean

 

Gannett/The Tennessean

Most Watched Videos