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William Donaldson, the nation's top securities regulator, is hopping mad over the $140 million payday the

New York Stock Exchange

is handing Chairman Richard Grasso.

But the

Securities and Exchange Commission

chief is refusing, so far, to say just how much he earned when he had Grasso's job from 1991 to 1995. Grasso, who has worked for the NYSE for more than three decades, succeeded Donaldson as Big Board chairman.

A SEC spokesman said a number of media outlets had requested information about Donaldson's compensation as NYSE chairman, but Donaldson's office had not yet provided a figure. The NYSE declined to comment.

On Tuesday, Donaldson sent a letter to the NYSE, demanding answers to nine questions about Grasso's $139.5 million compensation bonanza. In his letter, Donaldson said the deferred compensation package raises "serious questions" about the NYSE's corporate governance procedures.

Donaldson makes $142,500 a year at SEC chairman. His tenure as NYSE chairman occurred prior to the exchange's new policy of disclosing executive compensation -- a policy change that followed pressure from the SEC and corporate governance advocates.

It is known that Donaldson, after leaving the NYSE, became eligible for a monthly pension plan distribution. According to a financial disclosure statement he filed when seeking the SEC top job earlier this year, the 71-year-old Donaldson said the NYSE pays him $1,050.80 a month for the rest of his life.

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Donaldson also collects a pension from

Aetna

(AET)

, a company where he briefly served as chairman. The major health insurer pays him a total of $1,570.21 in pension and retirement benefits each month until his death.

As Aeta's chairman, he earned about $18.7 million during a brief 10-month stint. Donaldson is a founding member of the New York investment bank

Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette

, which was bought in 2000 by

Credit Suisse First Boston

.

Upon his nomination by President Bush to succeed Harvey Pitt, Donaldson promised to sell millions of dollars in stocks and investments in a half-dozen private equity funds, in order to avoid a conflict of interest in his new job. His 34-page financial disclosure statement revealed that he held stocks in a cross-section of corporate American companies.