The FBI is looking at the court records of a lawsuit filed against a company once headed by Defense Secretary-designate Frank C. Carlucci. The review of the file is part of the bureau's background check of the veteran government official.
Carlucci left the now-defunct international trading company, Sears World Trade, to replace then-Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter as national security adviser after the Iran-contra arms scandal broke last year.
Sheldon Rosenberg, a Miami lawyer whose client sued Sears for allegedly cutting him out of the profits on an international trade deal he arranged, told our associate Stewart Harris that FBI agents visited his office Nov. 4 to study the lawsuit records. The agents had been to the Dade County courthouse and discovered Rosenberg had just checked out the case file. The FBI refused to say why it was looking into the suit.
The trading deal involved Sears and two Venezuelan aluminum suppliers. In a telex to Rosenberg's client, Richard Swaebe, dated Oct. 31, 1983, Sears World Trade recognized him as the Venezuelan companies' export agent.
"Any contracts where they are suppliers will be channeled thru Richard Swaebe Inc., a negotiating agent," the telex said. Swaebe asserts that he also received oral assurances to the same effect.
Two weeks later, however, an internal Sears memo pointed out the advantages of cutting Swaebe out of the deal. They were:
"1. -- Direct contact/communication with the supplier.
"2. -- Do not have to deal with Richard Swaebe Inc. as a principal to this transaction.
"3. -- Will immediately establish a working relationship with a potentially very good Venezuelan company."
The memo said Swaebe would be paid a commission for his efforts, with the writer adding, "So long as this is handled in a proper, businesslike fashion, I do not anticipate any problems."
Both the telex and the memo are in the case file.
Simeon Kriesberg, lawyer for Sears World Trade at the time, confirmed the telex's authenticity. But he said it does not fairly represent Swaebe's relationship with the company. Sears' court argument was that Swaebe was merely a broker who disqualified himself from sharing the profits by trying to represent both sides in the transaction.
The judge agreed with Sears and threw the case out before it went to a jury. Swaebe is appealing.
Where does Carlucci come into it? As chairman and chief executive officer of Sears World Trade, it is highly likely that he knew about the multimillion-dollar deal Swaebe was arranging -- and the decision to cut Swaebe out of the profits.
The name F. Carlucci appears under the word "Approved" on the minutes of an Oct. 4, 1984, meeting of the Sears transaction committee, which normally had to give written approval for such transactions. The minutes show that the committee decided at the meeting to proceed with the Venezuelan aluminum deal.
Footnote: Carlucci did not respond to our calls for comment.