N.J. Securities Firm, Founder Target of Probe
Federal authorities are probing First Jersey Securities and its millionaire founder, Robert E. Brennan, in what a congressman says is a look at allegations of stock manipulation, illegal campaign contributions and laundering of drug money.
But Brennan, a Brielle, N.J., financier and philanthropist, said the inquests are the latest “disgraceful” attacks in a 10-year persecution of him and his firm by federal authorities.
The congressional and Justice Department investigations were revealed by Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) in a Feb. 14 letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III.
Dingell, chairman of the House energy and commerce subcommittee, asked Meese whether a committee probe of Brennan and his New York-based firm “would interfere with your ongoing grand jury investigation.”
Senate Primary Race
The letter offered little detail about the stock and drug money charges, elaborating only on the alleged improper contributions to the unsuccessful 1982 Republican Senate primary race of Jeffrey Bell in New Jersey.
Dingell was unavailable for comment on his letter, a committee aide who asked to not be named said Wednesday.
In a reply to Dingell, Assistant Atty. Gen. John R. Bolton neither confirmed nor denied the grand jury involvement. Bolton, however, confirmed Justice Department “inquiries” into Brennan’s activities and asked Dingell to refrain from holding hearings.
The subcommittee’s investigation is proceeding, and staff members said Dingell plans hearings within two months.
Brennan, reached in his New York office, said he was aware of Dingell’s letter but unaware of any grand jury probe.
He said he would welcome an investigation by Dingell to end what Brennan called a “shocking and sickening” smear campaign orchestrated by longtime foes at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“It’s McCarthyism at its witch-hunting worst,” said Brennan, alleging that the congressional probe was sparked by SEC officials.
Brennan, at odds with federal securities regulators since shortly after founding his company in 1974, said he believes that the SEC is waging a vendetta against him.
“It has not been a 10-year vendetta,” said Ira Lee Sorkin, regional director for the SEC in New York and the official named by Brennan as coordinator of the smear campaign.
Sorkin said he was limited in discussing Brennan by a still-unresolved SEC lawsuit filed against First Jersey last year. But Sorkin strongly denied any effort to tarnish the reputation of Brennan or his company.
According to Dingell’s letter, there is “substantial evidence that Brennan masterminded a scheme to funnel well over $100,000 in apparent illegal campaign contributions” to Bell’s unsuccessful primary run against former Rep. Millicent Fenwick.