I love this headline in today's New York Times -- "Grasso Giving Up $48 Million in Benefits." Ouch! That's gotta hurt. But to Richard A. Grasso, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, it's a drop in the bucket.
You see, the New York Stock Exchange disclosed its chairman's compensation package last month after a request made by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Since Grasso took the position in 1995, he's earned $97 million, not including benefits. And then there are retirement benefits and various bonuses. In all, the Times article notes that Grasso had received $139.5 million in accumulated pay. The $48 million he's forgoing is money he is owed in back benefits.
In a USA Today article, Grasso said he would "forgo that $48 million because the size of his pay was becoming a distraction from his job of running the exchange." Is announcing that he's giving up the $48 million supposed to make us feel better about the fact that he's made $97 million as the as the chairman of the NYSE? Executive compensation and corporate governance have been enormous issues in the past year. Shouldn't the NYSE be a bit more of a role model in the area of corporate governance?
SEC Chairman William H. Donaldson certainly thinks so. As a recent Washington Post article reported, Donaldson wrote the following in a letter to the NYSE's compensation chairman: "As you know, I believe that self-regulatory organizations must be models of good governance…In my view, the approval of Mr. Grasso's pay package raises serious questions regarding the effectiveness of the NYSE's current governance structure."
What do you think?