March 7, 2006
Ex-NYSE chair says too late to settle with Spitzer
By Chris Sanders
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former chairman of the New York Stock
Exchange, Richard Grasso, on Tuesday said it was too late to
settle a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer over his $193 million pay package.
"I think it is way beyond that at this juncture," Grasso
told reporters as he went into a Manhattan lawyers office to
give a deposition in the case closely watched on Wall Street.
Spitzer sued Grasso in May 2004, saying his pay package was
excessive under New York's not-for-profit law. He is seeking
the return of a large part of the money, arguing that the
former chairman's pay was "unreasonable."
Grasso was forced out of the NYSE in 2003 following uproar
over his compensation.
By coincidence, the deposition began the same day the New
York Stock Exchange was due to close its purchase of electronic
rival Archipelago Holdings and form a new public company, NYSE
Group, ending 213 years as a member-owned exchange.
Grasso, who was in a jovial mood as he shook reporters
hands and exchanged greetings before the meeting began, said he
expects the questioning to go on into next week.
"I'm going to answer all their questions," he said.
"They've got 35 and a half years worth of questions I'm sure,
and whatever they are, I plan to answer."
As for his defense, he said top chief executives from Wall
Street and the corporate world decided his pay package and
exercised solid business judgment.
"They paid me what they believed to be fair and
reasonable," said Grasso.
New York Supreme Court Judge Charles Ramos has set October
30 as the opening trial date, just a week before Spitzer seeks
election as the state's governor on November 7.
About three dozen depositions have been taken already with
10 remaining, a source estimated. Among those remaining include
Kenneth Langone, former head of the NYSE's compensation
committee, scheduled on March 20.
Spitzer's suit also named Langone, accusing him of
misleading the NYSE during the first three years he headed the
compensation committee, and the exchange itself, saying it had
failed to ensure compliance with the law.
Langone has, however, argued that summary judgment should
be granted dismissing the complaint against him. He has said
that discovery related to the case has shown he repeatedly
disclosed Grasso's bonus payments to the NYSE's compensation