Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) yesterday called for an investigation of Treasury Secretary G. William Miller because of allegations contained in a federal suit filed last week against Textron Inc., a company Miller once headed.
Textron was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of paying some $5.4 million in bribes or questionable payments to foreign officials.
Miller has repeatedly denied knowledge of the payments, which the SEC alleged were made between 1971 and 1978. Miller was President, then chairman and chief executive officer of the Providence, R.I., conglomerate during that period.
Miller became chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 1978 after prolonged hearings on the payments question before the Senate Banking Committee. He was confirmed as Treasury Secretary last August.
Cranston said he wants the Senate Banking Committee to hold hearings on the SEC allegations. Cranston is a member of the committee, which in 1978 considered Miller's nomination to the Fed.
"I believe the committee has a responsibility to determine whether Mr. Miller was at that time fully truthuful with the committee during his confirmation hearings," Cranston said in a prepared statement.
Banking Comittee Chairman William Proxmire (D-Wisc.) still hasn't announced whether hos committee will hold hearings on the Miller question.
But yesterday, Proxmire circulated among committee members a 101-page SEC report on the commission's Textron probe. Proxmire has requested the report last summer when Miller's nomination for Treasury Secretary was under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.
The report gives a detailed picture of the SEC's Textron investigation, which was then in progress. The SEC noted that 11 executives of Textron and its leading subsidiary, Bell Helicopter Co., pleaded the fifth amendment on the grounds of self-incrimination.
These executives included Jack Reardon, Textron's assistant treasurer, and Frank Sylvester, vice president of Bell's international marketing department.
Miller was not named as a defendant in the SEC suit, which charged that the company had repeatedly misled investors and regulators in a number of ways, mostly on the foreign sales operations of Bell Helicopters.
Textron settled the SEC suit by agreeing to entry of a consent decree, in which it neither admitted nor denied the SEC alegations but agreed to take various remedial actions.
At a press conference last week on the day after the suit was filed, Miller maintained that he was kept in the dark by subordinates about the payments. He also suggested that the questionable dealings were restricted to junior executives, far removed from his top post at Textron.
"I do not find anything in the complaint to suggest that a senior official of Textron was involved in any bribeary case," Miller said. "How would he transmit to me what he didn't know?"
But the SEC memo names certain top executives who allegedly were aware, if not planners, of the questionable payment schemes.