A matter of trust: Matty Moroun’s Gateway Project shenanigans undercut free market system
By Jeff T. Wattrick | MLive.com
Billionaire trucking magnate and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun learned yesterday that, despite what his lawyers may have believed, men of Moroun’s “stature” do sometimes spend the night in jail.
In other words, Matty Moroun discovered that the Wayne County Circuit Court remains part of the American system of jurisprudence. All men, not matter their stature, should expect equal justice before the law.
The argument from Moroun’s lawyer that Judge Prentis Edwards has no right to incarcerate a “man of [Moroun’s] age and stature” for contempt is first and foremost a terrible legal strategy. Nothing good can come from an attorney telling a judge that His Honor is not important enough to punish the lawyer’s client.
More importantly, it underscores the very reason Edwards saw fit to jail Moroun and Detroit International Bridge Company President Dan Stamper: They believed they were somehow above the law.
Moroun’s Bridge Company signed a contract with MDOT in 2004. As often happens with complex partnerships, there was a dispute about the nature of that contract. The parties went to court where Judge Edwards ruled in 2010 that MDOT’s understanding of the contract was correct and DIBC would have to honor it. In January 2011, he ruled again that DIBC was not complying with his order and briefly jailed Stamper. Now, still 12 months later, DIBC remains out of compliance.
At long last, something had to give in order to finish this $230-million public-private project as intended. Based on a layman’s reading of MCL section 600.1715, Edwards’ punishment for this contempt finding is not necessarily unreasonable.
The irony here is Matty Moroun is a shining example of capitalist success. From his immigrant father’s two gas stations, he built a commercial empire. However, the capitalist system that so enriched Moroun can’t function, never mind thrive, unless all parties respect the rule of law.
Capitalism can withstand the Bolsheviks and Jacobins, but it cannot long survive if capitalists thwart the rule of law in an effort to squeeze every nickel. Francis Fukuyama is right, trust is the cornerstone of both a free society and a free economy.
The Detroit International Bridge Company has not behaved in a manner that suggests they are worthy of anyone’s trust. It comes down to that old rhetorical question: Would you buy a used car from these men?
What’s more, the DIBC’s attempt to play every angle with the Gateway simply can’t be in the company’s or the Moroun family’s long-term self-interest.
Think about it this way, metro Detroit is now well aware of “Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.” Five years ago did you know who owned the Ambassador Bridge? Did you even know that it was owned by a private company? Did you particularly care?
Chances are you didn’t because, for 70+ years, the bridge’s private ownership wasn’t an issue. The Ambassador Bridge basically worked.
After marathon legal wrangling over Gateway, it’s worth asking if North America’s busiest commercial border crossing should continue to be owned by a private firm. Millions of people and thousands of enterprises within the global supply chain rely on the Ambassador Bridge. The stakes here are high.
Right now, private ownership apparently means a multi-year legal battle is required to ensure bridge-to-freeway connections are built.
It’s increasingly hard to argue this “private-sector solution” for North America’s busiest commercial border crossing remains viable. And that, more than anything else, may be Matty Moroun’s ulitmate legacy.