Breaking the Devil's Pact: The Battle to Free the Teamsters from the Mob

Breaking the Devil's Pact: The Battle to Free the Teamsters from the Mob

Breaking the Devil's Pact: The Battle to Free the Teamsters from the Mob

Breaking the Devil's Pact: The Battle to Free the Teamsters from the Mob


In 1988, despite powerful Congressional opposition, U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani brought a massive civil racketeering (RICO) suit against the leaders of the behemoth International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and more than two dozen Cosa Nostra (LCN) leaders. Intending to land a fatal blow to the mafia, Giuliani asserted that the union and organized-crime defendants had formed a devil's pact. He charged the IBT leaders with allowing their organized-crime cronies to use the union as a profit center in exchange for the mobsters' political support and a share of the spoils of corruption. On the eve of what would have been one of the most explosive trials in organized-crime and labor history, the Department of Justice and the Teamsters settled.

Breaking the Devil's Pact traces the fascinating history of U.S. v. IBT, beginning with Giuliani's controversial lawsuit and continuing with in-depth analysis of the ups and downs of an unprecedented remedial effort involving the Department of Justice, the federal courts, the court-appointed officers (including former FBI and CIA director William Webster and former U.S. attorney general Benjamin Civiletti), and the IBT itself. Now more than 22 years old and spanning over 5 election cycles, U.S. v. IBT is the most important labor case in the last half century, one of the most significant organized crime cases of all time, and one of the most ambitious judicial organizational reform efforts in U.S. history. Breaking the Devil's Pact is a penetrating examination of the potential and limits of court-supervised organizational reform in the context of systemic corruption and racketeering.


[United States. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters]
flies in the face of democratic principles [and]…smacks of

—U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, July 1988

[United States. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters] is the
most significant organized-crime-[control] measure in the history
of the United States.

—Michael Cherkasky, IBT election officer, April 1998

I first heard of United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters in the summer of 1988. Marla Alhadeff, an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan, called to ask if I would serve as an expert witness in a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) case that U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani had just filed against a slew of Cosa Nostra figures and the leaders of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). She sent me the RICO complaint and a box of supporting documents. The complaint laid out a compelling story of systemic union corruption and organized-crime racketeering over several decades. The government’s narrative of Cosa Nostra’s infiltration and exploitation of the Teamsters Union was not a revelation because, over the years, congressional hearings, criminal prosecutions, and media accounts had illuminated much of that history.

In its scope and ambition, U.S. v. IBT would clearly be a seminal case. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was simultaneously taking on the nation’s largest and most powerful union and the nation’s most powerful crime syndicate. This was also the first civil RICO lawsuit against an international union. I imagined, with trepidation, sitting on the witness stand . . .

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