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Grasso Can't Keep It All

A judge orders the former Big Board chief to give back some money.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer won a partial court victory Thursday in his long-running battle to overturn former

Big Board

Chairman Dick Grasso's outsized $187 million pay package.

In a 72-page ruling, New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos said Grasso must pay back a portion of the money given to him by the New York Stock Exchange. The ruling is unclear on just how much money Grasso must repay.

Spitzer's office issued a statement after the decision was announced, saying Grasso "must return approximately $100 million already paid to him." Grasso could not be immediately reached for comment.

The ruling appears to pertain to tens of million in "prematurely paid advances" on Grasso's supplemental executive retirement plan, or SERP. Justice Ramos found that Grasso had not fully disclosed all the details of that plan to the NYSE board.

Spitzer's statement says the judge's ruling affects some $80 million in SERP benefits he received from the NYSE.

In theory, any money returned by Grasso would go back to the NYSE and its parent company, the

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NYSE Group

(NYX)

. Spitzer, who has pursued the lawsuit on behalf of the NYSE, brought the case when the exchange was still structured as not-for-profit company.

The judge's ruling, however, said a trial is still necessary to decide whether the rest of the pay package was justified. The judge also rejected a claim by Grasso seeking an additional $48 million in back pay he claims the NYSE still owes him.

When he left the NYSE, Grasso walked away with $139.5 million. He initially said he would take the additional $48 million, but later changed his mind.

Justice Ramos, in his ruling, says Grasso failed in his duty to "fully inform'' the NYSE board about the portion of the pay package the court ordered him to give up.

The legal battle between Spitzer and Grasso has been playing out for more than two years. Spitzer, who is running for New York governor as as a Democrat, sued Grasso, seeking to recoup much of his compensation package, claming it was excessive and unreasonable.

Grasso's pay package became a point of controversy three years ago, when he stepped down from the NYSE board. The dispute and the lawsuit predates the NYSE going public.

The board of the NYSE and leadership structure of the Big Board have been dramatically overhauled since the furor over Grasso's pay package.