Dozens of union pension and other benefit funds reached a settlement May 13 with eleven parties to recover $110 million of losses involving allegations of pension fraud by the Portland, Or., based Capital Consultants LLC. Capital Consultants had $927 million under its management when federal agents seized its assets in Sept. 2000. Funds from Taft-Hartley plans and other employee benefit plans accounted for a large share of nearly $500 million in estimated investment losses The demise of Capital Consultants sparked lawsuits by a number of union trusts, alleging fraud and seeking to recover some of their losses. The proposed settlement, yet to be approved by the district court, calls for payments to the trusts by 11 companies and professional advisers, including legal and accounting firms.
U.S. Dist. Judge David F. Levi (E.D. Cal., G.H.W. Bush) ruled May 2 that the Dep't of Labor failed to show that a candidate for business agent of United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 442 violated the union's election bylaws against electioneering and campaigning within 100 feet of the polling place on election day. In 1997, the local based in Stockton and Modesto, Cal., adopted bylaws that included detailed rules for conducting elections. Section 28(j) of the bylaws states: "No campaigning or electioneering shall be allowed inside the building where the election is conducted or closer than 100 feet from the entrance to the building."
The scandal-scarred board of Ullico, Inc., appointed labor-friendly ex-Ill. Gov. James R. Thompson (R) Apr. 29 to "review" the insider trading scheme that allowed some directors of the union-dominated insurance company to make hundreds of thousands in tainted profits. To see just how labor-friendly, visit http://www.ipsn.org/ullico/thompson_ullico.htm, for a picture from when Thompson was governor. It shows Thompson with Robert A. Georgine, now the Ullico president, who helped select Thompson for the lucrative investigatory job and who Thompson is supposed to be investigating. Also pictured is Angelo Fosco. The deceased Fosco was president, as was his father, of the Laborers' Int'l Union of N. Am from 1975-1993. The government's draft 1994 racketeering suit that led to a quasi-government takeover of LIUNA, stated that Fosco "was an associate of the Chicago [La Costa Nostra] family" and accused him of racketeering acts related to extortion of LIUNA members. Also in the picture is deceased plumbers and AFL-CIO boss Edward Brabec.
Stolen union money paid for plumbing work at property owned by Minneapolis City Councilman Joe Biernat (DFL), according to federal charges against Biernat, a boss of United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 15 in Minneapolis, and the boss' brother. The indictments unsealed Apr. 18 allege that in 1999, Thomas J. Martin, ex-Local 15 business agent used $2,700 in union funds to pay for Biernat's plumbing work at the same time the council member and his colleagues were approving Martin's appointment to the city board that licenses plumbers. The specific charge is conspiracy to extort under color of official right in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Hobbs Act). Biernat also was charged with making a false statement to the FBI, aiding and abetting union embezzlement, and mail fraud.
Jeffrey L. Grayson agreed Apr. 16 to plead guilty to two felony counts in connection with the collapse of his union pension management firm, Capital Consultants LLC of Portland, Or., which will likely result in a prison term. Grayson is cooperating with federal prosecutors in hopes of getting a lighter sentence and has provided new information on Andrew Wiederhorn's role in the firm's downfall. Wiederhorn was the chief executive officer and controlling stockholder of Wilshire Credit Corp., which defaulted on $160 million in loans and contributed to the collapse of Capital Consultants. Total client losses, mostly from union members, are estimated to be $355 million.
The U.S. Atty.'s Office in Portland filed revised charges against Grayson, accusing him of two felonies: one count of mail fraud and one count assisting the filing of a false tax return. The charges, filed as a criminal information, described Wiederhorn's involvement in deals that allegedly compromised Grayson's independence as an investment manager. Wiederhorn has not been charged, but the U.S. Attorney has notified him that he is the subject of an ongoing grand jury investigation.
Dominick Bentivegna, a union staffer who stood up to corruption in a powerful N.Y.C. local, was fired Apr. 9 from his $85,000-a-year union job after declaring he would run for president of Serv. Employees Int'l Union Local 32B-32J. He helped oust local boss Gus Bevona in 1999 amid reports of financial irregularities and a $6 million black marble penthouse.
Under new leadership, Bentivegna took a job supervising shop stewards. But he became fed up with excessive spending and a lack of union democracy, and he marched into local president Michael Fishman's office and declared he was running against the boss in Sept. 2003. Twenty minutes later, he says, he was terminated. "He said, 'You're not going to work for me and run for office,'" Bentivegna said.
"It's not about democracy," Fishman said. "If you disagree with the program, you can't be working here." Attorney Alan Serrins said Bentivegna will contest the firing in federal court. Bentivegna retains his elected position as assistant secretary to local. [Daily News; N.Y. Post 4/11/02]
As reported in the last issue, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., is probing stock transactions by directors of a union-dominated insurance firm ULLICO linked to the now bankrupt firm, Global Crossing. The Wall St. Journal reports that internal documents reveal that ULLICO officers and board members cashed in on some 71,000 ULLICO shares between Jan. 2000 and Sept. 2001, possibly at the expense of the very union pension funds to which they owed a fiduciary duty. The profits were potentially huge. For example, Martin J. Maddaloni, president of the United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters, allegedly reaped a $184,000 profit from timely selling of a mere 2,000 shares of his ULLICO stock back to ULLICO in 2000.
United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 15 business manager Thomas Martin resigned Mar. 15 and the Minneapolis-based local was placed into emergency trusteeship by its int'l union. UA's prepared statement cited a union constitutional provision allowing the int'l union to take control of the local's affairs "on being presented with a charge that an officer of a local union may have committed dishonest acts involving any of the local union's assets." UA int'l president Martin Maddaloni reportedly received such a complaint involving the Local's "market recovery fund." Unions use market recovery funds to help union contractors compete with non-union firms that pay lower wages. Some developers say they prefer union labor if the wage rates are competitive because it is believed union projects get less scrutiny from local inspectors than when non-union labor is used.
U.S. Dist. Judge James Robertson (D.D.C., Clinton) ruled Mar. 6 that a provision of the United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters' constitution calling for expulsion of any member who distributes "letters of falsehood and misrepresentation" violates the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959 (a.k.a., the Landrum-Griffin Act) and must be excised. Robertson granted summary judgment to union members Charles Callihan and Wilmer Thomas, who claimed that Section 199 of the union's constitution violated their free speech rights under LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2).
Robertson ordered the union to excise the provision from its constitution and ordered the union to publish the court's ruling within 60 days in the union's membership publication. That notice, the court specified, should be mentioned in the publication's table of contents and printed in a type size no smaller than 22 point bold for the heading and 11 point for the body of the court order. Robertson also has scheduled a status conference for Apr. 2.
In a Mar. 21 interview with the Bureau of Nat'l Affairs' Daily Labor Report, the Dep't of Labor Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell said that recently released Office of the Inspector General statistics show an increase in labor racketeering case activity involving labor unions, with a specific focus on the four unions that have been identified as under the influence of organized crime -- the Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, the Laborers' Int'l Union of N. Am., the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees' Int'l Union, and the Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n. Reportedly, there currently are 357 pending labor racketeering investigations under way at OIG, 39% of which involve organized crime. Of the 357 investigations, 44% involve pension and welfare benefit plans, according to the statistics.