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Grasso: Spitzer lawsuit 'smacks of politics'

Former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso said in an Op-Ed piece in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that a lawsuit filed against him by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer "smacks of politics."
/ Source: Reuters

Former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso said in an Op-Ed piece in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that a lawsuit filed against him by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer "smacks of politics."

The former Big Board chief also said he will file a countersuit for pay that is still owed him and seek damages from interim NYSE Chairman John Reed.

"New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's decision to intervene in a commercial dispute between the New York Stock Exchange and me over my compensation and retirement benefits smacks of politics," Grasso wrote in the Journal.

On Monday, Spitzer sued Grasso, seeking the return of at least $100 million from Grasso's controversial $188.5 million compensation package.

The lawsuit brings to a head the battle over Grasso's pay, which threatened the credibility of the world's largest stock market and led to its overhaul. The scandal, which began when Grasso resigned under pressure last September, became symbolic of corporate excesses.

Spitzer has not filed suit against the heads of leading Wall Street firms such as Bear Stearns Companies' James Cayne and Goldman Sachs Group's Henry Paulson and former Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO David Komansky, all of whom spent time on the NYSE compensation committee when Grasso's package was approved.

Grasso, who said he did not set his own compensation, wrote: "Mr. Spitzer's decision to sue me and not Mr. (Carl) McCall, who signed the new contract three weeks later, or the powerful CEOs who voted for my compensation year after year, makes clear that Mr. Spitzer is running for governor, and running hard."

Last year, Spitzer publicly stated he was considering a run for New York governor in 2006.

Former New York State Comptroller Carl McCall headed up the compensation committee when Grasso's pay was approved.

Grasso also lashed out at Reed, the interim NYSE chairman.

"Throughout this ordeal, 'interim' NYSE chairman John Reed never once approached me to discuss a settlement. Instead, he maligned me in the media, sent a letter last February demanding that I return more than $120 million without even explaining how he arrived at that number," Grasso wrote.

A NYSE representative could not be reached for comment early Tuesday morning.

Grasso said he would donate any proceeds from his counterclaims to charities.