Burch: Take me to your Pilot

Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 10:05pm
By Michael R. Burch

When Bill Haslam was elected governor of Tennessee, he quickly signed an executive order eliminating a requirement for the governor and his top aides to disclose how much money they earn. Haslam had been roundly criticized during his campaign for refusing to say how much he made from Pilot Corporation, the parent company of Pilot Flying J, a national truck stop chain with annual revenues of around $29 billion.

Now that the FBI has filed an 120-page affidavit accusing Pilot of defrauding its customers for years, to the tune of millions of dollars, by deliberately under-calculating earned rebates on sales of diesel fuel, a natural questions will be: “What did Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam know and did he participate in the alleged enormous scam?”

Bill Haslam was the president of Pilot from 1995 to 2002. One would have to believe or strongly suspect that as the president of a multi-billion-dollar company, he would have known about major billing and rebate/discount policies that affected company profitability and its relationships with major clients. During Haslam’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, his fellow Republicans frequently brought up price-gouging allegations leveled against Pilot in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Ike. With these new allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Pilot, Tennessee voters may begin to ask if there may be real fires where there is so much smoke.

Federal investigators have not yet disclosed how high into Pilot’s management ranks they believe the purported fraud reached. But the FBI affidavit names senior sales managers, including John Freeman, vice president of sales, and Brian Mosher, director of national sales. The affidavit also says that Mark Hazelwood, the company’s president, was aware of the alleged rebate scam.

Especially eye-opening is the account of how Freeman ended up buying a plane from Western Express (a company based here in Nashville). When Western told Pilot that it had discovered a huge shortfall, Freeman offered to cut Western a check. Instead, according to the FBI affidavit, Western asked Pilot to buy a plane for a million dollars.

“So I bought the (expletive) airplane,” Freeman said, according to the affidavit.

Freeman then implicated Pilot’s highest management, according to page 81 of the affidavit. (CHS stands for “confidential human source.” “Jimmy” is Jimmy Haslam. “Mark” is Mark Hazelwood.)

CHS-2: What does Mark and Jimmy say about (expletive) like that? Do they even catch it or do they know?

FREEMAN: (Expletive). I mean, I called Jimmy and told him I got busted at Western Express.

CHS-2: What’d he say?

FREEMAN: Oh he knew it.

CHS-2: Oh did he?

FREEMAN: Absolutely. I mean, he knew all along that I was cost-plussin’ this guy. He knew it all along. Loved it. We were makin’ $450,000 a month on him.

CHS-2: Holy (expletive)!

FREEMAN: — why wouldn’t he love it?

CHS-2: Yeah.

FREEMAN: Did it for five years, cost us a million bucks. I mean, we made $6 million on the guy, cost us a million bucks.

So it seems likely that Pilot’s high-ranking management not only knew about the scam, but may have endorsed it. With so much money at stake, we can expect Pilot’s clients to review their own records and file lawsuits in attempts to recoup their losses. So we may soon know whether any of the alleged fraud occurred during Bill Haslam’s presidency of the company.


Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.

61 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 4/27/13 at 5:17

If you think Haslam should resign if he's found guilty of corruption, why do you think Obama should stay in office?

Read the Washington Examiner's report as posted above and let me know.

By: yogiman on 4/27/13 at 5:19

Just wondering, pswindle, why has so many of Obama's supporters wound up in prison?

By: yogiman on 4/27/13 at 7:00

If interested in saving our nation as the 'good ole USA', listen to Gen. Jerry Boykin.


By: Rasputin72 on 4/28/13 at 6:32

There are trolls on this site.

By: Captain Nemo on 4/28/13 at 7:07

Yes Raspy old boy, your are a troll.

By: yogiman on 4/28/13 at 9:15

So what do you call yourself, dumba$$, a fanatic in favor of Sir Usurper?

By: Captain Nemo on 4/28/13 at 9:20

I am a troll hunter and you have been tagged, yogi. How about lunch Monday.

By: yogiman on 4/28/13 at 11:19

I went once to no avail. Why waste more time? If it isn't raining I have a man coming to do some work for me.

I'll still invite you to come to our American Legion meeting on May 14. We meet at 7PM at Crump Paris Park.

That way, if you don't show up I won't have wasted my time.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/28/13 at 4:16

Captain Nemo is pure underclass.

By: bfra on 4/28/13 at 4:20

Raspy - That is above lowclass trash like you! Any male that lives off of a woman is lowclass trash.

By: Mike Burch on 4/29/13 at 1:53


As the lawsuits are filed, it will be interesting to see how far back in time the victims say the scheme began. If the fraud occurred while Bill Haslam was president of Pilot, it could come back to bite him politically. Even if he is not directly implicated, his political opponents will use the Pilot scam against him.