Over the past year, there appeared a distinct possibility that Jimmy Haslam could lose his ownership of the Browns as a result of a federal prosecution of fraud charges leveled against his Pilot Flying J truck stop chain for shorting customers on diesel fuel rebates.
Whether or not the Browns fortunes have improved in Haslam’s tenure as owner is debatable, but at the very least there doesn’t appear to be an upheaval in the front office coming anytime soon as the government and Pilot Flying J have struck a deal that is expected to keep Haslam from being prosecuted.
The deal was struck last week but not announced until Monday. While the terms of the agreement dictate that no one is technically shielded from prosecution, the arrangement was negotiated by Aubrey Harwell, who represents Haslam and Pilot Flying J, suggesting that the deal was structured in such a way to avoid jail time for Haslam.
Under the deal made public on Monday, Pilot must pay a $92 million penalty over two years and cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation into diesel fuel rebate fraud.
“We, as a company, look forward to putting this whole unfortunate episode behind us, continuing our efforts to rectify the damage done, regaining our customers’ trust, and getting on with our business,” CEO Jimmy Haslam said in the release.
The full amount that Pilot Flying J must forfeit will likely end up closer to $150 million, as the $92 million penalty comes on top of a required $56 million restitution paid to customers.
That’s nothing to sneeze at, though it means there won’t be a scenario where Haslam has to transfer ownership of the team to his 83-year-old father.