NEW YORK -- A federal judge in Manhattan ruled yesterday that Robert E. Brennan, the New Jersey sports entrepreneur and financier, had used illegal price gouging and abusive sales practices to enrich himself and his brokers at customers' expense.
Mr. Brennan, boyishly handsome and articulate, came to prominence in the early 1980s through TV ads inviting customers to "come grow with us" by investing in the small, unseasoned companies he was promoting.
Deftly parrying regulatory attacks on his sales practices, he reaped a fortune, spending generously on political and philanthropic contributions in New Jersey.
More recently, Mr. Brennan has lobbied to buy the Meadowlands sports complex and develop riverboat casinos there.
Ruling in a civil case filed a decade ago by securities regulators, Judge Richard Owen of U.S. District Court concluded "without question" that the financier and his former flagship, First Jersey Securities, had engaged in "a massive and continuing fraud."
Calling Mr. Brennan "completely without remorse," Judge Owen imposed damages of at least $71.5 million on Mr. Brennan and First Jersey, which once had more than 1,200 employees and more than a half-million customers across the country.
Mr. Brennan, 51, was traveling yesterday and was not available for comment, said his lawyers, who also said that both he and his firm intended to appeal.