Jimmy Haslam will not step down as Pilot Flying J president amid federal investigation

David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

The Browns owner and truck stop magnate defended his company and his reputation on Friday.

Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam stood by his embattled Pilot Flying J truck stop company during a Friday press conference at the company's headquarters in Knoxville. He told a group of assembled reporters that he would not be stepping down as the company's president and defended its reputation in the face of an FBI and IRS investigation for fraud.

"Somebody asked me today if I would step down as president,'' Haslam said. "I thought to myself, 'Why would I do that?' Candidly, I haven't done anything wrong.''

Haslam's statement Friday came less than 24 hours after federal investigators released the 120-page affidavit used to obtain search warrants for a search of the company headquarters on Monday. The affidavits allege that sales personnel with Haslam's company bilked millions from its corporate customers by withholding fuel rebates and discounts. Pilot allegedly added to its profit margins and individual sales commissions to the tune of millions of dollars through the practice.

The Pilot president denied those charges and vouched for the integrity of his family business.

"The affidavits didn't present a very flattering picture of our company," Haslam said, "and were not representative of what our company is all about, but taken on the whole, they were consistent with our previous impression of the federal government's investigation."

He went on to say that the federal investigation concerns only a "very small percentage" of the company's customers. Haslam added that a number of customers had offered their support for Pilot in the wake of the allegations. He also noted that the investigation had not impacted sales this week.

A spokesperson for the NFL said earlier on Friday that the league would not suspend Haslam during the investigation.

Before leaving the press conference, Haslam reiterated his belief and faith in the company, and pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

The press was not allowed to ask questions follow Haslam's statement, but he did manage to answer a question about whether or not the Browns would make the Super Bowl.

"Eventually, yes," Haslam said before leaving the room.

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