Stanford C. Stoddard is picking another fight with the federal government.
The maverick banker, who won his last battle, over management of Michigan National Corp. in the 1980s, is suing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for denying insurance coverage to a bank he is forming.
The lawsuit, filed Jan. 29 in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleges religious and racial discrimination and a violation of Mr. Stoddard's constitutional rights. Accusing federal banking regulators of carrying out a vendetta against him, Mr. Stoddard is asking for insurance coverage, plus $60 million in damages.
"This is a great and egregious attack on my personal integrity," said the 65-year-old scion of a prominent banking family. "The FDIC holds a grudge against me because of some 12-year-old frivolous charges that were ill-conceived in the first place."
An FDIC spokesman in Washington said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.
Mr. Stoddard, however, was typically combative.
"They denied insurance because they don't like me," said the former Michigan National chairman. "They are illegally keeping a viable enterprise, with a board of some of the most distinguished people in the state of Michigan, from doing business."
Joining Mr. Stoddard in the suit are his 35-year-old-son, Stanford D. - the proposed Bank of Michigan's designated president - and three would-be directors: Joseph B. Anderson Jr., a prominent Detroit businessman; Linda D. Bernard, a lawyer who runs a municipal legal services department for low-income people in Detroit; and H. George Levy, chief of staff at an area hospital.
The elder Mr. Stoddard would be vice chairman; Ms. Bernard would be chairman.
Their complaint details a 27-month effort led by the elder Mr. Stoddard - he is the principal organizer, though he would own less than 50% of the stock - to get FDIC coverage for a new state-chartered bank.
In September 1993, after the organizers had applied to the state banking regulator for a charter, Simona L. Frank, then director of the FDIC's Chicago region, urged Michigan Financial Institutions Commissioner Patrick M. McQueen to reject the application. (Ms. Frank last month became associate director in the FDIC's division of supervision.)
On Dec. 1, 1993, Mr. McQueen granted the charter after deciding the organization had met all the legal requirements for a state bank, including the "character, responsibility, and fitness" of its directors and officers.
Mr. McQueen, who urged the FDIC to reconsider when it subsequently rejected the bank's application for insurance, could not be reached to comment for this article.
The FDIC board based its June 1994 rejection decision largely on Stanford C. Stoddard's past.
"The primary organizer ... has demonstrated undesirable banking practices in his former position as chief executive officer of a multibillion-dollar banking organization," the FDIC order said. "These practices involved the commingling of personal business with banking business."
The order concluded that the banker's history "is in and of itself objectionable and considered to be of such a nature as to preclude the individual's approval as a management official of another entity."
The order also referred to Mr. Stoddard's legal problems after he resigned the top spot at Michigan National Corp., which his father had founded. While Stanford C. Stoddard is viewed as a consumer banking innovator who built Michigan National into a regional powerhouse in the 1970s, he took a dramatic fall.
Caught up in the Penn Square Bank energy loan scandal of 1982, he resigned with a push from Michigan National's board in 1984. Over the next two years, he was convicted of illegally profiting from a bank lease, and national bank regulators charged him with using bank funds to pay for home renovations and his daughter's wedding.
Mr. Stoddard's conviction was overturned, and he was eventually acquitted. His regulatory sanctions and fines were removed by the courts. Michigan National Bank is now a subsidiary of National Australia Bank.
In appealing the FDIC rejection, Bank of Michigan organizers proposed making Mr. Stoddard vice chairman rather than chairman. But the FDIC held firm.
Mr. Stoddard said his lawyers obtained FDIC documents under the Freedom of Information Act that he claims show that the racial makeup of the proposed board and Mr. Stoddard's religion were discussed when Bank of Michigan's application was considered.
Mr. Stoddard is a Mormon. Prospective directors Bernard and Anderson are black.
Mr. Stoddard's lawyer, Jeffrey D. Meek, said the final rejection order discounts the organizers' concession to put the elder Mr. Stoddard's stock in a voting trust - because one of the trustees, former U.S. solicitor general Rex Lee, belongs to Mr. Stoddard's church.
"Such matters have nothing to do with deposit insurance," Mr. Stoddard said. "Deposit insurance is supposed to be color-blind."