Anheuser-Busch, Inc., the world's biggest brewer, made $2.7 million in illegal or questionable payments beginning in 1971 to boost domestic beer sales, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged yesterday.
In a suit filed in Federal District Court here, the SEC charged Busch with covering up the payments to beer and malt beverage wholesalers, retailers and their agents as inducements to purchase the company's products.
The SEC said the payments were "in possible violation of among other things, federal, state and local liquor laws and regulations."
Without admitting or denying the allegations, Busch consented to the judgment of a permanent injunction.
Based in St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch brews and distributes its beer under the Budweiser, Michelob and Busch-Bavarian brand names.
The SEC complaint said the Busch, paid $600,000 to concessionaires such as the Dobbs House division of Squibb Corp. Host International, Inc., and Sport Service Corp. The companies got the payment mostly by submitting false or inflated bills to Busch, the commission said.
About $1.9 million was paid wholesalers to reimburse them for payments to retailers, the complaint stated.
In one instance cited by the SEC, Busch overpaid an unnamed outside maintenance company by $120,000, which then was forwarded to retailers.
Another $28,000 was paid to agents of retailers for goods and services that never were received by Busch, the SEC said.
In 1972, Busch "made at least $250 in undisclosed payments to candidates for political office and public office holders," the SEC alleged.
A spokesman for the company said he did not know of any criminal investigations of Busch by federal, state or local authorities.
As part of the settlement with the SEC, Busch agreed to hire a person acceptable to the commission to review the procedures followed by an already established auditing committee.