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Fairness Hearing Set On Pilot Flying J Settlement

Parties in a $70 million truck-stop rebate scandal linked to a company owned by the governor of Tennessee and his brother, who owns the Cleveland Browns, are to gather in court Monday for a federal court hearing that could end in approval of a settlement.

About 50 customers of Nashville-based Pilot Flying J opted out of the proposed settlement and have filed their own lawsuits. But the bulk of the 6,000 companies due rebates, plus interest, under the proposal have signed on to the deal.

Lawyers started filing lawsuits in April against the nation's largest diesel retailer, which is owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Lawyers for the company say upper management didn't know about the scheme that cheated customers out of promised rebates, starting in 2005.

The company has annual revenues of about $30 billion. Jimmy Haslam has denied any personal wrongdoing.  Gov. Bill Haslam holds an undisclosed ownership amount in Pilot Flying J, is not involved with its operations.

The parties are to go before U.S. District Judge James M. Moody on Monday for a fairness hearing, at which the judge is to evaluate the terms of the settlement, for which he earlier granted preliminary approval. Attorney Aubrey B. Harwell Jr. of Nashville, Tenn., who represents the company, said the settlement is a fair one, even though it excludes punitive damages.

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