Updated from 2:14 p.m. EDT
Many executives have seen their paychecks squeezed in the new era of corporate responsibility. Not so for Richard Grasso, the chairman and CEO of the
New York Stock Exchange
Not only has the NYSE extended Grasso's employment contract until 2007, it also has awarded him an eye-popping $139.5 million in deferred compensation.
Grasso will earn an annual base salary of $1.4 million with a possible $1 million annual bonus under the new contract.
But his real payday stems from a NYSE decision to restructure his deferred compensation and retirement and savings plan. The upshot is Grasso gets $40 million from his savings account, $51.6 million in retirement benefits and $47.9 million in previously earned incentive awards -- all right now.
At $140 million, Grasso's fortune now compares favorably to the market cap of at least 160 stocks that trade on the NYSE. He's worth more than
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Ann Yeager, deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors, said the disclosure about the compensation package raises more questions than it answers. She said investors would demand a public company provide more information than the NYSE is offering.
"It's huge and you just don't know how anyone could get at that number, despite his long tenure at the exchange," said Yeager.
Grasso, 57, has been with the NYSE for 36 years and became chairman in 1995. The press release announcing the contract extension and pay package did not say why the Big Board was distributing the deferred compensation now.
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Grasso's windfall comes during a time when many companies are reining in executive compensation following the bear market and scandals of the past three years. Grasso also is cashing in at a time when the NYSE has had a problem filling vacancies on its board, and securities regulators have questioned some of the exchange's corporate governance practices.
Just a few weeks ago, the Council of Institutional Investors, which represents 130 pension funds, issued a 48-page report that criticized the NYSE for being rife with conflicts of interest and putting the interests of Wall Street firms before those of investors. The report also faulted the Big Board for failing to disclose executive pay packages and failing to employ good corporate governance standards.
"They improved their standing by disclosing it in the first place,'' said Paul Hodgson of the Corporate Library, a corporate governance advocacy group. "But they didn't do themselves any favors by not saying where the money came from.''
In announcing Grasso's big payday, H. Carl McCall, chairman of the NYSE human resources and compensation committee, said the NYSE is "very pleased'' that Grasso will stay on for at least another four years.
McCall is the former New York State Controller and unsuccessfully ran for governor last year.
Jacob Zamansky, a New York lawyer who specializes in representing investors, said Grasso's pay is "unfathomable." Zamansky said it's sad commentary that a regulator can walk away with as much money as some of the chief executives whose companies took advantage of investors.
This is not the first time that Grasso's pay package has caused a stir. Earlier this year, the Big Board drew fire from critics when it was learned that Grasso made about $12 million last year.
Critics also have blasted Grasso for serving as a director of
, a company whose stock is listed on the NYSE. Meanwhile, Home Depot's founder, Ken Langone, is a member of the NYSE's board.
Up until last year, Grasso also sat on the board of
, another NYSE-listed company.