The allegations come during a critical stage of her lawsuit against the bank:
The case provides a glimpse into the cutthroat culture of banking amid economic turmoil five years ago. Sterling, like many other banks, had become overloaded with bad construction and real estate loans and used a multimillion-dollar federal bailout to help raise new capital.
Sterling, acquired this spring by
Stanley claims two executives hired by Sterling to help her steer the bank through the financial crisis instead betrayed her while she missed work following surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. Referring to emails and interviews with other bank employees, she accuses
In one private email exchange, Seibly and Eckhardt discussed that they needed to "take charge" while Stanley was out sick.
Stanley said she was unaware of what had transpired in the weeks leading up to her firing until she brought her concerns to an attorney months after board members unanimously voted she be ousted. As internal documents were disclosed, her attorney,
She was "beyond devastated," he said.
"This is a professional woman who rose to the top only to be discriminated against in the most brutal way," he said.
"Any allegations of a 'coup' are desperate efforts by Ms. Stanley to try to create a case where none exists," Hollon said. "Ms. Stanley's allegations of discrimination are outrageous and totally without merit. Her termination had nothing to do with her cancer diagnosis, nor did it have anything to do with her gender. Indeed,
He added: "Those changes were necessary because, according to the outside expert advisers, investors would not invest new money in Sterling if the individuals who were the 'face' of Sterling during its decline remained at the helm."
In the days following the firings, Gilkey spoke with Stanley and summarized what had happened: "They (Sterling) don't want a 70-year-old guy and a female executive with breast cancer as the face of the company. They need to know (Stanley) will be around in 10 years," according to court documents.
Before Stanley's firing, Sterling's board asked former company CEO
Zuppe reported that Stanley, who climbed her way through Sterling's ranks for 24 years and once was recognized by the industry as one of banking's leading female executives, "was ineffective as CEO of (
Zuppe had supported Stanley's ascension as his successor in 2008, the same time banks began reeling from the real estate bust.
Dunn described Zuppe's role as dubious.
Stanley replaced Zuppe in 2008 as chief executive. It was Zuppe, Dunn said, who led Sterling during the critical years just before the bank's failure. He spearheaded the bank's aggressive loan practices, including signing off on Sterling's foray into
When Sterling received a cease-and-desist letter from federal banking regulators in 2009, Stanley as CEO shared the letter with Seibly and Eckhardt.
Instead of helping her, she said, they initiated their own talks with
Dunn said everyone wanted to blame others for the bank's freefall and a weakened Stanley was an easy target.
Gilkey is expected to testify that Seibly and Eckhardt acted above their pay grade by holding talks with
The "termination of legacy management" plan worked, Dunn said. But he said Seibly and Eckhardt illegally employed discrimination and dishonesty as a tactic.
Dunn said there were no specific investors who said they wouldn't put money into Sterling if Stanley remained in charge. In essence, he said, Seibly, Eckhardt and a
"We asked: 'Who are the investors?' No answer. We asked again: 'Who are they?' They said there were no specific investors, but rather it was their belief that that was the flavor of
Stanley initially sought about
In the aftermath of her firing, Stanley went to work for her family's
Sterling's board members said the firing of Stanley during the tumult of 2009 had nothing to do with cancer. A common refrain in their sworn statements filed in the case reflects concern for Stanley's health, plus a belief that the bank needed new leadership to attract recapitalization.
"With respect to Ms. Stanley's termination, the only time Ms. Stanley's cancer was even mentioned was in connection with the directors expressing personal concern that a termination would be difficult for her given that she was already dealing with her illness and treatment," wrote board member
Seibly and Eckhardt were widely credited with leading Sterling back to stability, which preserved 2,500 jobs, including more than 500 in
Seibly has since moved to
Spires wrote that she voted to fire Stanley with other board members on the advice of
"I felt it was my duty to keep the bank going forward and that recapitalization was necessary for the bank to survive," she wrote.
Sterling first netted about
Then, after Seibly supplanted Stanley as CEO and Eckhardt became second in command, groups of private equity investors sunk another
Court documents disclose that
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