The Teamsters union health and welfare fund is trying to get back more than $7 million in insurance premiums that seem to have disappeared.
The welfare fund is a sister organization of the larger pension fund that is now being investigated by the Labor Department and the Internal Revenue Service for alleged mismanagement and ties to organized crime.
As part of the investigation, Teamster President Frank Fitzsimmons and three other men have agreed to resign as pension fund trustees.
The same four men are also trustees of the $130 million welfare fund, whose official title is the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Welfare Fund of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The $7 million in premiums were part of a contract to supply 185,000 Teamster members with accident and health insurance.
The man who got the contract last year was Joseph Hauser, a promoter well known by Federal authorities for previous questionable operations in the insurance business.
Currently, Hauser is on trial on Los Angeles federal court on charges of extortion involving alleged kickbacks to union officials in return for their membership's insurance.
The story of how Hauser got the Teamsters' business and what he did with the money is being probed by a federal organized crime strike force in Los Angeles.
The current investigation, according to reliable sources, has touched on Hauser's relationship to former Attorney General Richard G. Kleindienst, several Washington attorneys, a nationally syndicated columnist, a variety of shell insurance companies, Diplomat National Bank of Washington and a Swiss company. But none of these has been identified as a target of the investigation.
Last spring, Hauser was up against some stiff competition, including Prudential Insurance Co., Travelers, and Aetna, for the Teamsters business. The premiums were a handsome $23 million annually.
Actually, hauser himself was not bidding, but rather he was being represented by a Kansas City, Mo., company named Old Security Life Insurance Co. Later an attorney for Old Security, a respected company, would say that his clients did not know about Hauser because they dealt with an insurance executive fronting for Hauser.
The Teamsters hired Tolley International Corp., an Indianapolis consulting firm, to evaluate the bids. But a final decision on who got the business was left with the trustees.
According to court documents filed in a Securities and Exchange Commission suit against Hauser and, later, in a suit by the Teamsters themselves seeking return of their $7 million, the promoter felt he needed a friend among the trustees.
He called on Thomas D. Webb Jr., a Washington attorney and former FBI official, and on local public relations man I. Irving Davidson. Webb and Davidson have a reputation of knowing their way around town.
Webb got in touch with his occasional golfing companion at Burning Tree country Club, Kleindienst, the former Attorney General who had pleaded guilty in 1973 to criminal charges of being untruthful in testimony before a Senate committee in a Watergate-related crime.
Kleindienst, in turn, told another Burning Tree golfer and friend, Fitzsimmons, about Hauser's bid. In a deposition Kleindienst quoted Fitzsimmons as saying, "Old friend, I'll look into it and call back."
As it turned out, Fitzsimmons and his fellow trustees voted for Old Security over eight others bidding for the Teamsters business. Teamsters President Fitzsimmons apparently knew Old Security was unwittingly fronting for Hauser.
For getting the contract for Hauser, Kleindienst collected $125,000 from Hauser after "five to seven hours work," he said. Another $125,000 was split by Webb and Davidson.
No sooner did Old Security get the first premium payment of $7 million, than it reinsured 80 per cent of that amount with a Hauser company called Family Provider Insurance Co. in Phoenix.
It is common for companies to reinsure big policies in order to avoid bearing the brunt of a catastrophic loss alone. This way a company can spread the risk but, in the case of the Teamsters insurance, it was "reinsured" in several Hauser-controlled companies.
In June, Kleindienst's law partner at the time, Edward Morgan, told Hauser about a Baton Rouge company that was up for sale. National American Life Insurance Co. (NALICO) was controlled by Roger LeBlanc, who used NALICO's assets to finance real estate deals.
He sold the shell of NALICO to Hauser, transferring most of the company's assets to a new company. NALICO is licensed to do business in 26 states, which meant Hauser could sell insurance to unions in those states without the advance approval most of these states' insurance departments require of new companies.
But the Teamsters premiums did not stay in NALICO for long, according to the SEC suit. In September, the commission charged Hauser with "looting' the company, transferring funds to various accounts at Diplomat National Bank in Washington. NALICO is currently being run by the SEC and the Louisiana Insurance Dept.
The reasons Hauser put the money into the then newly formed and relatively obscure bank have not been ascertained.
According to Davidson, it was because he encouraged Hauser to do so in order to help Davidson's friend, columnist Jack Anderson. At the time Anderson, who had helped found Diplomat National, was chairman of the bank's executive committee. Anderson has since resigned from the bank.
anderson says he does not know why Hauser came to Diplomat National and if it was to do him a favor he was not aware of it.
He said he met twice with Hauser, who tried to sell him some libel insurance. According to a source, Anderson called the bank and advised it to close out Hauser's accounts.
As it turned out, Hauser in just a few months put some $2 million into the bank, whose total deposits for all of 1976 were only $7.2 million.
Indeed, Hauser's accounts at Diplomat National were among the most active, and $1.2 million from one of them was sent to Switzerland to form a new company, SEC records show.
In all, during a four-month period, premium funds from the Teamstes health and insurance plan had traveled through assorted shell insurance companies and bank accounts. The movement of money came to a halt with the filing of the SEC suit last Sept. 27.
Whether the money will ever turn up again in the Teamsters fund is an open question.