Grasso claims NYSE trial judge is biased

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The Independent Online

Dick Grasso, the former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, will hear by the end of this week whether he has been successful in removing the judge due to try him over his controversial $188.5m (£100.5m) pay package.

Mr Grasso says the judge, Charles Ramos, is biased against him, in part because he turned down Mr Ramos's request to become a member of the NYSE board.

The demand that Mr Ramos recuse himself from the case is the latest twist in a drama that has captivated Wall Street since 2003. The consummate showman, Mr Grasso had led the exchange for eight years when he was unceremoniously ousted. The board discovered he had been taking home the equivalent of $50,000 for every working day, and Eliot Spitzer - the ambitious attorney general of New York state - launched a lawsuit demanding that he repay much of the money. Mr Spitzer says that state law limits remuneration for executives at non-profit organisations, as the NYSE then was.

The case is scheduled to be heard by Mr Ramos on 16 October in the middle of the election campaign in which Mr Spitzer is running for state governor. The battle over Mr Grasso's pay has therefore become intensely political, with Mr Spitzer trumpeting his reputation for clamping down on Wall Street excess, and Mr Grasso fighting a bitter public relations battle against the attorney general.

Mr Grasso's lawyers have filed a request that Mr Ramos recuse himself because he twice sought employment at the NYSE, and journalists have now been shown letters from a recruitment consultant representing Mr Ramos. In court filings last week, Mr Grasso alleged that Mr Ramos sought to be named to the NYSE board in 2002 and then again in 2003 in the weeks after Mr Grasso was fired.

A spokesman for the judge had no comment on the allegations, but said he would rule on Mr Grasso's request by tomorrow.

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