The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided the Knoxville, TN, corporate headquarters of Pilot Flying J on Monday as part of an ongoing investigation believed to center on unpaid customer rebates.
CEO Jimmy Haslam said two search warrants were served on the company and several subpoenas were issued, including some to members of the company’s sales staff. Haslam said the company has 23 sales people and approximately 3,300 trucking companies with whom Pilot Flying J does regular business.
In a general media availability on Tuesday afternoon, Haslam, son of the company’s founder Jim Haslam, said all 480 truck stops are operating normally, despite the criminal investigation.
“This is a great company. It was Sunday night, it was last night, and it will be going forward,” he said. “We were all shocked by the events of yesterday…Pilot Flying J value number-one is to do the right thing all the time and we steadfastly believe we have done that.”
Haslam said the investigation appears centered on “a very insignificant number of customers and the application of rebates; that rebates that were owed to the customers were not paid. We, of course, disagree with that.”
Haslam said the company is cooperating fully with the investigation.
Marshall Stone, a spokesman for the FBI’s Knoxville office, told WBIR-TV that the FBI could not comment on the investigation, but confirmed that it jointly involved the IRS.
“The support we have gotten from our trucking company customers has been, candidly, overwhelming,” Haslam said. “You always wonder about something like this and the reputational hit you might take…we have reached out to almost every trucking company, and many called us last night and showed support.”
According to Haslam, the investigation does not involve any state or federal tax issues.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Haslam had rejoined Pilot Flying J in February after stepping down last year during his pursuit of the Cleveland Browns football team. Haslam purchased a controlling 70% interest in the Browns last summer for $1.05 billion.
Haslam’s brother Bill is currently governor of Tennessee.
Pilot runs over 650 travel stops and convenience stores in 47 states and Canada and is one of the country’s largest private employers with revenues of about $29 billion, according to Forbes.