Jimmy Haslam can't escape the Pilot Flying J rebate scheme.
The Cleveland Browns' owner has agreed to a deposition, under certain conditions, as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit over the fraud, The Tennessean reported Friday.
A deposition is a "witness's sworn out-of-court testimony," according to Cornell Law, "used to gather information as part of the discovery process and, in limited circumstances, may be used at trial."
Haslam is being sued by Alabama-based trucking company Wright Transportation in the Circuit Court of Mobile, Alabama. The civil suit is one of many against Haslam-owner Pilot Flying J for its failure to pay rebates to its customers as promised.
Haslam has not been charged with a crime yet. An FBI investigation did not lead to federal charges against Haslam.
The question at the heart of the suit is this: Did Jimmy Haslam know about the rebate fraud?
Throughout the scandal, dating back to April 2013, Haslam has denied knowledge of the rebate scheme that ripped off the company's customers.
The billionaire's lawyers previously disputed an Alabama judge's mandate for a Haslam deposition, but the judge denied the request in late April, according to the Tennessean. Haslam's attorney's called Wright Transportation's request for a deposition a "thinly-disguised effort to obtain discovery from him to be used in the litigation against him, wherever it ends up."
The judge first slated the deposition for May 11, but postponed it due to Haslam's inability to testify that day. Haslam's new willingness to follow through with a deposition might push it back to a further date.
The exact conditions outlined by Haslam's lawyers are vague. One specific requirement is that one deposition for all cases must take place in one 7-hour day. You can read the full court document here.
The rebate fraud has cost the Knoxville, Tennessee business $177 million in settlements with customers and the government, plus court fees. The scheme has led to "10 guilty pleas to federal indictments, another eight pending federal indictments," according to the Tennessean.
Will Haslam suffer further consequences with the deposition? Unlikely. Haslam should avoid any legal headaches as long as he provides a solid deposition.
However, as Wright Transportation's lawyers have stated, Haslam has not yet testified about the rebate scheme under oath.
Haslam declined comment today when asked about the case.
Jimmy Haslam declined to comment on deposition related to ongoing Pilot Flying J litigation "No comment" #Browns— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) May 9, 2016