INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam says he was "absolutely not" aware of and did not participate in the practices that led to the federal investigation into his Pilot Flying J company.
"I take responsibility for what happens at PFJ as the guy at the top of the shop, but I was absolutely not aware of any of this," Haslam said. "As soon as we found out there was an issue, we immediately began taking an aggressive stance in finding out what happened, No. 1, and righting the ship, No. 2."
Federal investigators allege that Pilot, a truck-stop chain that is the nation's largest diesel fuel retailer, deliberately withheld rebates from trucking companies to boost profits. The owner, who bought the team last year, met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in April. The league has not announced any disciplinary actions.
Haslam was in Indianapolis to speak at a transportation seminar. This was his first public question and answer session since the FBI raided company headquarters April 15. Haslam answered predetermined questions asked by former Kansas governor and American Trucking Associations president Bill Graves.
Later in the day he was back in Ohio, attending Browns workouts at the team's training facility in Berea.
In Indianapolis, Haslam made a plea to regain the trust of the transportation industry and his customers, and detailed a five-point plan to correct the situation. Haslam approximated from an initial internal review that five percent of Pilot Flying J trucking customers with a contract that includes rebates or discounts had a manual adjustment "to the benefit of our company and to the detriment of the trucking company."
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh's firm has been hired by trucking companies suing Pilot. Freeh's firm last year issued a 267-page report for Penn State on the university's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. He has also worked for the New Orleans Saints in response to the NFL's bounty probe; and investigated corruption allegations for FIFA.