business

Warren Buffett’s company buying Pilot Flying J

Berkshire Hathaway Inc., better known as billionaire businessman Warren Buffett’s company, has struck a deal to buy a 38.6 percent equity stake in Pilot Flying J, the truck stop/gas station company owned by Tennessee’s Haslam family.

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Breitbart bashes ‘Strange’s swamp pal’ (Corker) for Alabama ‘sweetheart deal’

Breitbart News — headed by President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon – is tying Sen. Bob Corker’s business dealings into its reporting on this week’s Republican U.S. Senate runoff primary in Alabama.

Breitbart is promoting Roy Moore over Sen. Luther Strange in the race. Corker is backing Strange and reportedly urged President Trump to personally campaign for Strange, as he did on Friday.

Referring to Corker as “Strange’s swamp pal” in its second report on the subject, the arch-conservative news service says the Tennessee senator “is set to receive more money each year from Alabama taxpayers from the sweetheart deal in an Alabama retail development arranged by a law firm that is a big donor to Strange’s Senate campaign than he receives from his salary as a United States senator.”

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AG: 3 million Tennesseans in Equifax data theft

News release from attorney general’s office

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today expressed in a letter to credit reporting firm Equifax his deep concern that the personal information of over 3 million Tennessee residents has been stolen by unauthorized individuals, leaving consumers vulnerable to identity theft and financial loss. In doing so, he added his voice to those of several other attorneys general who recently wrote to Equifax with similar concerns.

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$2.5B in annual TN business subsidies, outcomes often unknown

Tennessee state and local governments provide more than $2.5 billion in subsidies such as grants, tax breaks and tax credits to businesses each year, but there’s often little public information provided on whether the taxpayer money is working to produce promised jobs.

That’s the bottom line of reporting by the state’s four largest newspapers  — The Tennessean, The Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News Sentinel and (Chattanooga) Times Free Press — published this weekend.

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TN workers’ comp insurance rates continue decline

Workers’ compensation insurance rates will drop again next year for most Tennessee businesses as safer work sites and non-judicial settlements of workers’ comp claims continue to cut the costs of insurance industry, reports the Times Free Press.

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Four enter guilty pleas in Pilot Flying J scam

The man dubbed by the FBI as the architect of the diesel fuel rebate scam by executives of the nation’s largest truck stop chain has struck a deal to confess, reports the News Sentinel.

The former Pilot Flying J vice president of sales, John “Stick” Freeman, and three other Pilot Flying J ex-employees have agreed to plead guilty in the multi-million-dollar fraud and, according to language in the documents filed Monday, cooperate with federal authorities in the ongoing probe.

Freeman has been repeatedly described in an FBI affidavit and an indictment filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Lewen and Trey Hamilton as the architect of the scam in which less sophisticated trucking companies across the country were promised certain rebates but paid much less.

Freeman is providing information to the FBI about Pilot Flying J and the diesel fuel rebate scam the corporation’s own board of directors has conceded ripped trucking firms off to the tune of millions in five years, pleadings filed Monday in U.S. District Court show.

Also striking deals to confess are: John Spiewak, a regional sales manager for Pilot Flying J; Vicki Borden, director of direct sales; and Katy Bibee, an account representative who worked directly with Freeman.

… Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lewen and Hamilton make clear in the plea agreements Freeman is a key player in their effort to show the rebate scam was pervasive as was the culture of greed that spurred it – and that former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood was looking to expand it.

…Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam has not been charged, though the FBI, indicated in testimony and court records he was a suspect. Haslam denies any knowledge of the scheme.

TN ranked 35th in well-being of children, overall state economy

Tennessee ranks 35th among states both in caring for children and in its overall state economy, according to separate studies making the media reporting circuit today. The timing of the releases of the reports is surely coincidental; but just maybe there’s some linkage between the state economy and child well-being?

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Ryan’s Knoxville country club fundraiser draws protesters

U.S.  House Speaker Paul Ryan had private visits in Knoxville and Nashville Thursday with Tennessee Republican congressmen, reports the News Sentinel. Outside of Knoxville’s Cherokee County Club, site of a fundraiser, more than 100 protesters showed up despite the rain.

“He’s in there charging $10,000 for a photo op, and then we’re out here trying to make sure that we have health care next year,” said a soaked Gloria Johnson, a former Democratic state representative and the organizer of the protest, who joked that she left her raincoat at home.

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State officials give final approval to five-year outsourcing contract with JLL

News release from Department of General Services

The State of Tennessee has executed a five-year contract with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to provide statewide facilities management services.  The contract is effective today (May 26, 2017).

JLL was selected following a two-year multi-step procurement process led by the state’s Central Procurement Office that included representatives from higher education, general government and the legislature.

As we have consistently said, the contract will protect the livelihoods of current state facilities management employees, and is another tool for state departments and institutions to use to keep their expenses low, reducing the need for cost and tuition increases.

To view the contract, (go HERE.)

 Contract Background and Highlights

 ·         The State of Tennessee began to look at opportunities in professional facilities management services after studying results from 10 million square feet of state-owned office buildings currently under a similar arrangement in which taxpayer savings of about $26 million were achieved over three years. An additional third-party inspection of the cost analysis upheld forecasted savings if the program were expanded to more state buildings.

·         Participation by state agencies and institutions is voluntary.

·         The contract includes strict provisions that JLL will retain all current state facilities employees (provided they pass a background check and drug screening).

·         JLL will provide compensation equalization for every employee that is transitioned to ensure that they are made whole at the time of transition.

·         Tennessee’s facilities management program implemented in 2013 is considered innovative nationally, receiving awards from the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) in 2014 and from the National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA) in 2015.

Today the state is also announcing Charles Burkett as the contract governance executive.  A Memphis native, Burkett is a 41-year veteran of the financial services/ banking industry, and most recently a member of the University of Memphis leadership team serving as advisor to the president.  In his role at the university, Burkett was responsible for a range of strategic initiatives including implementation of quality improvement measurements of student satisfaction and managing residence life and dining.

In his new contract governance role, he will be responsible for ensuring the overall oversight of the statewide contract to ensure best service across all stakeholders, and for serving as the main point of contact for interested entities that would like to request a quote for service.

Burkett is a former member of the state’s FM Steering Committee, and will continue to serve as a liaison between the statewide contract with JLL and committee members, which will transition in name to Board of Advisors. Representatives on this advisory committee are from higher education and general government leadership.

Note/UPDATE: The Nashville Post reports Burkett will be paid $95 per hour under a contract, which would be $197,600 for a full year of 40-hour week – more than $20,000 more than his salary at the University of Memphis. Further:

He (Burkett) also was a member of the Facilities Management Steering Committee, which oversaw the secretive two-year process that resulted in JLL’s contract. Roberson said the steering committee will transition to a “Board of Advisors” overseeing the contract.

Roberson said the membership of the new board of advisors could be shaken up, but as it currently stands it consists of the head of the Department of Customer Focused Government, Terry Cowles (salary: $150,000); Bob Oglesby, the commissioner of the Department of General Services (salary: $159,996); Mike Perry, the head of procurement in General Services (salary: $147,900); Larry Martin, the commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration (salary: $190,260); Brock Hill, a deputy commissioner of the Department of Environment & Conservation (salary: $146,532); Russ Deaton, the deputy executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (salary: $155,004); Rick Nicholson, the budget analysis director for the Senate (salary: $110,220); and David Miller, the CFO of the UT system (salary: $310,000). TBR has not had a member on the committee since Warren Nichols left for a new job at the beginning of the year but is expected to appoint someone soon.

Giannini part of new TN government/political consulting firm with Memphis as first client

Bill Giannini, a former deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance who unsuccessfully sought election as Tennessee Republican chairman in December, has launched a new consulting firm that, the Nashville Post reports, will “focus on efficient government and performance management” — not lobbying.

Called Resolve Consulting, the firm of the former Haslam appointee and his team will have a mix of public and private clients, with some political consulting on the side… Rachel Selbe is also a principal and the firm’s vice president. Selbe is a former program and policy development director for the state, and she served as an assistant general counsel for the state’s Regulatory Boards Division. Other employees include Emily Janney and Greer Kelly as strategic consultants and Kellee Mannix as a consultant and coach.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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