NYSE's Grasso 'rejected offers' to settle out of court

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The Independent Online

New York's Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, has ruled out any chance of a pre-court settlement with Richard Grasso, the former head of the New York Stock Exchange whom he is pursuing for more than $100m (£54m) of disputed pay.

New York's Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, has ruled out any chance of a pre-court settlement with Richard Grasso, the former head of the New York Stock Exchange whom he is pursuing for more than $100m (£54m) of disputed pay.

Speaking to journalists after the annual awards dinner of the New York Financial Writers' Association in New York on Tuesday night, Mr Spitzer said he had made several offers to Mr Grasso to settle out of court, all of which had been rejected. He said the positions of both sides were now "rigidly set", adding that he was confident of victory.

Mr Spitzer filed his writ against Mr Grasso early last week, accusing him of misleading the board of the NYSE over matters relating to his controversial $188.5m remuneration package for 2002/03. In particular, Mr Spitzer alleges Mr Grasso was able to set his own performance targets, which were "easily achievable".

Mr Grasso, who worked for NYSE for 35 years, was dismissed last September following a dispute over the sum. Mr Spitzer has referred to rises in US executive pay over the last decade as "one of the most massive breakdowns in corporate governance we've ever seen".

As news of Mr Spitzer's suit was revealed last week, Mr Grasso almost immediately announced plans to counter-sue his former employers for due compensation and damages.

So far, he has been paid only $140m of the proposed $188.5m package. He said he intends to fight for the remaining $48.5m, as well as compensation for the damage to his reputation.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal last week, he accused his temporary successor at the NYSE, John Reed, of orchestrating leaks which stirred up a media backlash against him in the aftermath of his departure.

He also criticised Mr Spitzer's decision not to pursue Carl McCall, the chairman of the remuneration committee who approved his pay. He said the decision to ignore Mr McCall's involvement was a political one, driven by Mr Spitzer's known intention to run for Governor of New York in 2006. Mr McCall was the unsuccessful Democrat candidate for Governor in 2002. He wrote: "Those who thought they could break me with their repeated media leaks badly underestimated my character and resolve. I look forward to addressing them in court where they can no longer hide behind Mr Spitzer's cloak."

Mr Spitzer has since dismissed accusations of his political motivations, saying the case only concerned those who are believed to have misled others.

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