The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) set the rates that telephone companies could charge to the public. Northwestern Bell Telephone Company (Northwestern Bell) and some of its officers and employees (defendants) were charged with bribing members of the MPUC to approve unreasonably high rates for Northwestern Bell and, in doing so, engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity prohibited by § 1962(c) of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The complaint alleged that the bribes occurred numerous times over a six-year period. The District Court for the District of Minnesota dismissed the complaint for failure to plead a pattern of racketeering activity. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. Certiorari was granted.