INDIANAPOLIS -- Pilot Flying J CEO and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam spoke to some of the nation's top trucking companies Thursday morning at a transportation seminar.
WKYC's Sara Shookman was there as Haslam spoke to hundreds of executives at the Scopelitis Transportation Seminar for nearly 15 minutes regarding the ongoing investigation of Pilot Flying J.
Haslam acknowledged that Pilot Flying J has taken a huge hit to its reputation as a result of an alleged rebate scam, but repeated several times he wants to make the wrongs right in an effort to restore trust.
"I apologize again for the actions of our people," Haslam said before denying any involvement in the alleged scheme. "I take responsibility for what happens at PFJ because I'm the guy at the top of the shop, but I was absolutely not aware of any of this."
Browns owner and Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam says 250 companies were impacted by what he calls "adjustments" and others call fraud.
"Unfortunately there were some things happening a couple levels down from me that weren't done the right way. So I take responsibility and I'll fix it," he said.
The foul mouthed details in the FBI affidavit leave top trucking customers stunned, but not leaving with their business.
"Actually, the affidavit drove me to tears, but that's only one look," said Cari Baylor, vice president of the family company Baylor Trucking. "We are giving Pilot Flying J, under Jimmy's leadership, the opportunity to make this right before we make any changes to that magnitude."
Many trucking companies, by choice, or by habit will do the same, continuing to rely on Pilot's $500 million a week in credit, and its locations in places competitors can't match.
"We care about it being right, but we are certainly not people who want to see the company taken down because they fill a critical role in what we do," said Bill Graves, former Governor of Kansas who now serves as the President of the American Trucking Association.
"Pilot Flying J had great integrity and was a company that could be trusted, so that's all been shattered now," said Graves.
It's that image and unanswered criminal questions that leave Browns fans wondering what's next.
"This is a blip," said Haslam of Pilot Flying J's current issues, "It may be a substantial blip, but it in no way jeopardizes our ownership of the Browns, number one, or our commitment to the Browns."
Haslam added that Pilot Flying J's business is down approximately 1.5 percent since the April 15 raid of his company's Knoxville headquarters.
So far, Pilot Flying J is facing six lawsuits connected to the allegations.
Members of the media were not permitted to ask questions, but members of the trucking industry were able to pre-submit inquiries. Haslam answered a few of those questions for about 18 minutes.
When he was done speaking, those in attendance offered some applause.
Haslam then left Indianapolis for Berea where he attended the Browns off-season training activity.