New ad raises question: Is Matty Moroun one of the ‘Ambassador Bridge people’ or a humble, faceless stockholder?

By Jeff T. Wattrick |

A new ad from the Detroit International Bridge Company claims “an activist Detroit judge put the Ambassador Bridge people in jail” over the Gateway dispute.

They are, of course, referring to Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards’ decision to hold DIBC President Dan Stamper and DIBC Director/owner Matty Moroun in civil contempt for the failure to complete the Gateway Project.

This is very interesting because, to read the DIBC/Moroun/Stamper brief delivered to the Michigan Court of Appeals, you would think Matty Moroun is but a humble pensioner with shares in mutual fund or something like that.

“Legally, under well-recognized principles of corporate law, a corporation’s distinct legal identity immunizes its shareholders and directors from liability for the conduct of the corporation absent their active participation, and there were neither allegations nor evidence of any such acts by Mr. Moroun,” the appellants’ brief read.

Well, maybe. The state must deliver their response by close of business tomorrow, so we’ll soon learn how they intend to counter that argument.

When handing down his contempt ruling Edwards cited Stamper’s testimony that, as DIBC president, he handles the day-to-day operation and answers to Moroun. It’s a fair question as to whether that constitutes “active participation.” The Michigan Court of Appeals will surely sort it out in a deliberate and responsible manner.

Still, it is interesting that Moroun and DIBC are arguing that Moroun has nothing to do with the Ambassador Bridge and, at the same time, airing an ad that implicitly names Moroun as one of the “Ambassador Bridge people.”

Which is it?

The rest of the ad is barely worth commenting on, except to say it was no doubt produced by talented professionals who tested every line and image carefully to ensure it would be as persuasive as possible. That is to say, this commercial’s probable success only proves that people are incredibly gullible.

DIBC claims that MDOT refused to finish a Gateway Project bridge in question. One problem: MDOT has consistently argued that, under federal regulations, it couldn’t finish the bridge until DIBC deeded them the property as per the Gateway agreement.

How do we know MDOT is right and DIBC is wrong? You mean aside from the fact that the feds literally just ok’ed the work following confirmation that DIBC finally turned over the land to MDOT?

Jan. 25, WWJ: The Detroit International Bridge Company turned over land needed for an elevated ramp last month and Wednesday the Federal Highway Administration approved the additional work, even though the bridge company and MDOT have been battling in court.

Other than that pesky point of fact, there’s this: Judge Edwards and every single appeals court that looked at the issue agreed that DIBC, not MDOT, was out of compliance with the Gateway agreement. And DIBC long ago ceased efforts to overturn Edwards’ initial February 2010 ruling.

With the disputed land now in their possession and federal approvals formally secured, MDOT says the ramp will be completed (finally) sometime this spring.

Really, Ambassador Bridge people (whoever you are), was that so hard?