Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is Jimmy Haslam Billy Carter or Roger Clinton, but With More Money?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 4:35 AM

It seems like every ambitious Southern politician, if not a doofus in his own right (I'm looking at you, Newt Gingrich), has a doofus brother. The most famous are Billy "I'm an Agent of the Libyan Government" Carter and Roger "Secret Service Nickname 'Headache' " Clinton.

I'm not saying we should add Jimmy Haslam to the list of brothers politicians would rather not be asked about. But if you wanted to scroll down to "H" on the list and put your cursor there, it might not be a bad idea. Things are not going well for Jimmy.

Over on ESPN, they're devoting major time to discussing how embarrassing it is that one of the 32 people allowed to own a football team is in "serious trouble with the federal government." They're also reporting that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with Haslam on Tuesday to try to get a handle on this mess.

Convenience Store News (and how's that for a niche outlet?) is reporting that the lawyer for Atlantic Coast Carriers, which is now suing Pilot, thinks that "Six more trucking companies are likely to join the class-action lawsuit against Pilot Flying J by the end of the week."

And that lawyer, Mark Tate, isn't fucking around. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports, "The lawyer for a Georgia trucking company accused Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam today of witness tampering and cheating customers once again as the fallout from a federal fuel rebate fraud probe continues." Tate's claiming that Haslam's PR tour is basically about trying to get people to agree to settle only for what Pilot might have cheated them out of, rather than what a court might award them.

Moody's is trying to decide whether to downgrade Pilot's stock. According to an Associated Press story inThe City Paper, "Bond ratings agency Moody's Investors Service has placed Pilot on review for a possible downgrade following the raid, which would make it more expensive for the company to borrow money."

But perhaps the most damning critique of Jimmy Haslam comes from the man himself. In Cari Wade Gervin's Metro Pulse cover story, she writes the following:

Shortly after the NFL approved Haslam’s ownership of the Cleveland Browns last October, he addressed the media in a Chicago hotel. Haslam said his style of leadership in the NFL would be similar to his role as a CEO.

“I had five people that reported to me at Pilot Flying J. They’re all smarter than I am and they’re all better at their role than I am, and we let them do their jobs. On the other hand, we question them, we push them, we challenge them, we hold them accountable,” he said.

If what’s revealed in the affidavit is proven to be true, the primary accountability in the Pilot sales department was to profit, and the brains Haslam praises were used as the justification for defrauding “less sophisticated” customers.

The government’s affidavit details a culture of arrogance and recklessness seemingly encouraged by the corporation.

If Haslam thinks his job is to hold the people who report to him accountable, this scandal would suggest he hasn't done a very good job of that.

Does that make him as big a doofus as Brothers Carter and Clinton? Maybe he's not as embarrassing to his politician sibling as they were to theirs — after all, the man is running a really successful business (the alleged criminal enterprise part of it aside) and he owns a football team. But that's what I think makes his fall from grace so much more cringe-inducing — he had so much more to lose than those two.

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