Knox County Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly could decide as early as today whether Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam acted inappropriately in contacting fuel customers that had allegedly been shorted in their rebate contracts, and whether that contact amounted to witness tampering, the Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting this morning. Attorneys for Atlantic Coast Carriers, which has filed suit against Pilot Corporation, are asking for a temporary restraining order that would bar Pilot from contacting companies and customers who could be called as witnesses in the suit or could be "members of the class" in a class action against Pilot Flying J. Atlantic Coast is accusing Pilot of attempting to "pay off" potential litigants and causing them to sign agreements not to sue in return in an attempt to cover up further allegations of wrongdoing.
While "witness tampering" may be a legal stretch, there could be reason for the court to prevent further contact by Pilot to customers in order to allow for the court and legal process now begun to play out. Knox County Circuit Court is hearing arguments from attorneys for both parties this morning on the matter of the restraining order as various Tennessee press outlets ran stories yesterday detailing the content of potentially incriminating recordings which appear to show a widespread fraud operation within Pilot directed at trucking companies deemed to be too "unsophisticated" to know they were being taken. While there is apparent inference in transcripts of the recordings that Jimmy Haslam knew about the fraud operation, there is no evidence so far to prove the inference. Pilot Flying J was the subject of an FBI raid on April 15th in the wake of charges of widespread rebate fraud against trucking companies under contract to purchase diesel from the country's largest retailer of diesel fuel. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was head of Pilot for 13 years before seeking public office.