New questions raised about Pilot Flying J and "shell" company

6:00 PM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- A Knoxville attorney says Jimmy Haslam's family company could be tied to an alleged "shell company."

New documents claim that an Arkansas company, National Trucking Reclamation Services LLC, was created to resolve the civil cases against Pilot Flying J.

National Trucking was the second company to sue Pilot Flying J and the first to agree to its settlement offer.

Lane Kidd incorporated the company on April 22, just one week after the FBI raided Pilot's headquarters.

Kidd also heads the Arkansas Trucking Association, a group that lists Pilot Flying J as a member and major contributor.

The trucking company and the association even using the same address -- down to the suite.

Lawyers like Drew McElroy, who represents five trucking companies which have sued PFJ, are questioning Pilot's proposed settlement.

The settlement seeks to settle all civil claims against Jimmy Haslam's company.

McElroy says there's no way National Trucking purchased gas from Pilot prior to the raid, because the company didn't exist. How could it have been cheated?

But PFJ's response to their suit puzzles him.

"Instead of asking that (the suit by National Trucking) be dismissed, they are the ones that (Pilot Flying J) run to, and are the primary plaintiffs in the action where they've had the settlement, said McElroy. "There may not be any fire there, but there's sure does seem to be a lot of smoke."

Under the agreement, lawyers for the trucking companies will share in fees totaling as much as $14 million, saving Pilot money defending more than 20 suits it faces.

If trucking firms believe they've been tricked again, it could cost Jimmy Haslam more money and more time cleaning up the mess.

Jimmy Haslam's attorney, Aubrey Harwell, says Pilot has no details about National Trucking or any other companies that have filed suit.

"Pilot had no knowledge or involvement in the setting up of that company, the running of that company or the operating of that company, OK?" Harwell said in a phone interview with Channel 3's Sara Shookman.

And as for any allegations of wrongdoing on Pilot's behalf, "That's absolutely and totally wrong. There's no basis at all for that," said Harwell. "If they suggest that, that's outrageous."

Kidd, the man in the middle of all this, told Channel 3 News he can't speak openly about the topic right now because everything hasn't been settled legally.

"I want to let the documents on file with the court speak for themselves but may issue a statement tomorrow to simply reply to the silly innuendos," said Kidd.

If there is no fire as McElroy stated, what could be the explanation here?

One possibility is perhaps National Trucking could be a broker for several smaller trucking companies, and therefore could have been set up intentionally for the purposes of filing the lawsuit, on behalf of others.

In that case, attorneys like McElroy could be raising these questions with the hope that Pilot releases some information in response.

McElroy, representing Atlantic Coast Carriers, has a hearing regarding discovery of evidence, a motion to depose Jimmy Haslam under oath and other motions in front of a Knoxville judge Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Attorneys for Pilot Flying J have filed motions to prevent sharing evidence or the questioning of corporate leaders, like Haslam.

WKYC-TV

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