Lawsuit: Haslam’s Firm Committed Fraud

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — A lawsuit was filed Saturday in Knox County, Tenn. circuit court against Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s company, Pilot Flying J, pertaining to alleged unpaid rebate funds.

According to Olin Wooten, president and CEO of Wooten Enterprises that operates Atlantic Coast Carriers, the company did not receive rebates for a number of years.

Atlantic Coast Carriers is a trucking company in Hazlehurst, Georgia.

“As the owner of the Browns, one would have hoped that Haslam’s company would treat those upon whom he relied for success as he bargained to do,” said Mark Tate, the attorney representing Wooten Enterprises.

The suit comes after federal documents were unsealed that indicated Haslam knew that Pilot Flying J was engaging in fraudulent practices.

Federal agents raided company headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee, as they concluded an investigation that began in May, 2011.

The federal affidavit indicates that a confidential informant told investigators that Haslam and Pilot Flying J’s current president knew about fraud related to unpaid rebates.

The documents say Haslam and the company president were in the room when the fraud was discussed.

On Sunday, Tate released a statement to Fox 8 News that said, “Tate Law Group is confident that not only are the facts and the law in our favor but so is the public sentiment.  We are pleased and privileged to represent solid companies like Atlantic and others like it in these cases against Haslam and his company in this litigation.  We expect to prevail.”

At a news conference on Friday, Haslam said he would not step down.

“Candidly … I haven’t done anything wrong … and if there was ever a time the company needed leadership, it is now,” said Haslam.

No employees were arrested.  Haslam said the company is cooperating fully with the investigation.

Browns CEO Joe Banner said, “Browns operations are the same as they’ve always been.”

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(Fox 8′s Lou Maglio, Bill Sheil and Darcie Loreno contributed to this report.)