Richard A. Grasso (born July 26, 1946 in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City) usually known by the nickname 'Dick,' was chairman and chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange from 1995 to 2003, the culmination of a career that began in 1968 when Grasso was hired by the Exchange as a floor clerk. After the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, Grasso became the reassuring public face of the Exchange, and was praised for his role in helping re-start operations.
On 27 August 2003, it was revealed that Grasso had been given a deferred compensation pay package worth almost $140 million. This caused immediate controversy, as the hand-picked compensation committee consisted mainly of representatives from NYSE-listed companies over which Grasso had regulatory authority as head of the Exchange.
Following criticism of the deal from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William H. Donaldson, who preceded Grasso as Chairman of the NYSE, and several pension fund heads (who control some of the largest pools of equity investment capital in the U.S.), the Exchange board met and in 13 to 7 vote asked Grasso to leave. Grasso stepped down on 17 September 2003.
On 24 May 2004, Grasso was sued by New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, demanding repayment of the majority of a nearly $140 million pay package. Prior to being dismissed, Grasso had been in line to receive an additional $48 million over the $139.5 million he had already received; he was not paid the additional funds. Grasso has sued to gain those funds. According to the suit, Grasso, along with former NYSE director Kenneth Langone (co-founder of Home Depot), misled the NYSE board about the details of his pay package, beyond that of comparable chief executives.
The NYSE was a non-profit institution during Grasso's reign, and as such was governed by State of New York rules governing executive compensation for non-profits.
That the NYSE was a non-profit, goes to the heart of Grasso's compensation, as for-profit companies have traditionally received much greater leeway in executive compensation matters, even when the compensation might appear to be excessive to stockholders. In addition, there were issues of premature withdrawals of Grasso's retirement compensation. Retirement packages often have strict timetables as to when withdrawals can be made.
On 1st. July, 2008, the New York State Court of Appeals dismissed all claims against Grasso. The majority opinion stated that since the NYSE was now a subsidiary of a for-profit multi-national corporation that the State of New York had no oversight over the affairs of the company in this matter and that prosecution was "not in the public interest." Grasso was allowed to keep his $187.5 million compensation