KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Less than 24 hours after a judge unsealed search warrants in the Pilot Flying J federal investigation, company CEO and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam offered a five-minute statement to the media and the Knoxville, Tennessee community.
He said the company will continue its involvement in eastern Tennessee and remain a major force in community and business affairs.
"Earlier today, I was asked if I would be stepping down as CEO of the company. And I said I had done nothing wrong and the company needs our leadership," Haslam told reporters.
Haslam then read the following prepared statement:
"We've always enjoyed an accessible relationship with the media here at Pilot Flying J, and I hope it's never any other way.
"Pilot Flying J is very proud to be part of this community and places a very high value on our friendships, activities and role in this community and don't expect that to ever change.
"All of you are well aware of what happened here on Monday afternoon, and most of you have read all or part of the two affidavits released Thursday night as part of a federal investigation of Pilot Flying J.
"The timing of the release of the affidavits was sooner than we would have expected but otherwise not terribly surprising.
"The affidavits didn't present a very flattering picture of our company, 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.
"It still appears to us that this investigation is focused on a very narrow band of a very large company – questions about how rebates were handled to a very small percentage of our trucking company customers.
"On a personal note, this obviously has been a tough week for the Pilot Flying J family, the toughest in our history.
"First of all, I want to say how sorry I am that our team members, our customers, our suppliers, vendors and our friends have to go through this with us. It's been traumatic for some, but it's important to remember that probably 99% of our people aren't even in the scope of this inquiry.
"That's why on a call with all of our management folks this morning, I asked them to do three things:
· One, keep morale up and be positive.
· Two, keep everybody focused.
· Three, do your job.
"I want to say again, that from its beginning in 1958, Dad built this company on its integrity, and nothing's changed on my watch. Our first value every day around here is to do the right thing.
"It doesn't occur to us to do things any other way, and any conduct otherwise is intolerable.
"We'll continue to cooperate as appropriate with the federal investigation and continue our own investigation.
"In the meantime, it will be business as usual at Pilot Flying J. Our 23,000-plus employees in our 650-plus locations nationwide will stay focused on doing their jobs – providing the best products at the best prices with the best services to the best customers in the world, America's drivers.
"Our relationships with our customers, our suppliers and vendors, our team members and our friends in the communities in which we live and work are very important to us, and I trust and believe their faith in this company and its principles has never been displaced."
Haslam refused to answer any questions, but replied to one reporter's inquiry as he left the briefing room. "Will you take the Browns to the Super Bowl?" the reporter asked. Haslam turned, smiled and replied, "You bet."
Stay with NewsChannel5, newsnet5.com and The Knoxville News Sentinel for continuing coverage on the Pilot Flying J federal investigation.