Textron Corp. said yesterday that a memo discussing secret payments to a Ghanaian official was destroyed the day after Textron's then-chairman, G. William Miller, denied knowledge of such payments at a Senate hearing on his nomination to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
The company said the memorandum was destroyed by an unnamed employe last January. The memo concerned the sale of two helicopters to Ghana in 1971 by a division of Textron, Bell Helicopter.
The subject of questionable payments foreign officials to obtain sales was an important issue at Miller's confirmation hearings. Miller repeatedly denied knowing about any such payments.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Textron repeated yesterday its February statement to the Senate Banking Committee that there "was no indication that Textron corporate officers, or G. William Miller in particular, knew of this transaction."
The memorandum in question was written by the then-manager of Bell's international marketing department. It recounted a telephone conversation in which a Bell employe in Ghana told the home office in Fort Worth, Tex., that a military official in Ghana required a payment of about $300,000 as a condition of the sale.
Miller, in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee Jan. 24, said he knew nothing of the Ghana sale - it involved two helicopters worth less than $1.7 million - and would have the company research the sale and report to the committee.
Later, the SEC began an investigation into seevral Textron activities, including a $2.9 million payment to the company's Iranian sales agent. The sales agent, Air Taxi Inc., was allegedly controlled by the then-head of the Iranian air force, and the payment allegedly was made at the same time Bell signed a $500 million helicopter contract with Iran.
In yesterday's statement to the SEC, Textron named none of the employes involved and did not say why the memorandum was destroyed. It also did not say whether the employe who destroyed the document was one of the two employes who knew of the questionable aspects of the Ghanaian sale in 1971.
A spokesman for Textron declined to name any of the employes and would not say whether the employe who destroyed the memorandum was desciplined.
In its Feb. 15 report to the Senate committee, Textron made no mention of the memorandum, although Miller admitted then that the transaction was "strange" and that it "was not handled properly" by Textron employes.
A Federal Reserve Board spokesman said Miller would have no comment on yesterday's revelations. Senate Banking Committee Chairman William Proxmire (D-Wis.) said he was "distressed" and asked the Justice Department to investigate whether destruction of the memo violated any laws.
Textron said the existence of the memorandum came to the attention of company officials during the SEC investigation during "testimony by a Bell employe." The SEC asked Textron to try to locate the document and on May 2, the company said, it discovered that "on Jan. 25, 1978, Bell employe had removed the memorandum from the Bell files and destroyed it."
Textron said it is checking to see whether documents it has filed with other government agencies might be inaccurate.
Bell's then executive vice president, now president, James F. Atkins, rejected the sale because the Ghana military official wanted to overpay about $300,000 and have Bell remit to him the difference between the purchase price and the actual price.
According to the SEC document, the sale was then "restructured" by Bell employes as a sale to its Ghanian sales agent, Tropical Aircraft Sales, for the list price $1,667,608, with an immediate resale to Ghana at a contract price of $1,938,452.
Ghana then sent Bell $1,984,382.62 for payment to Tropical Aircraft. Bell took its share of the sale - $1,667,608.06 for two helicopters and $6,774.56 for freight - and transferred the remaining $310,000 to Tropical's account in a Miami bank.
In its SEC filing Textron said it "has learned from the $310,000 transferred to Tropical, a total of $297,063.42" was sent to the unnamed Ghanaian official.
Miller, in his February reapperance before the Banking Committee after Textron researched the sale, told a similar story. He did not say, however, that the funds were transferred from the sales agent to the Ghanaian official, a transaction that Textron says it learned about later.
Asled whether it appeared to be an improper arrangement, Miller told senators, "On the surface I don't like it at all." He said Bell employes should again have brought the proposed sale to attention of senior Bell officials.