It may very well be that New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard A. Grasso has earned every penny of the $140 million he is cashing out from his retirement and savings vested during his 36 years there. After all, the NYSE has done quite well, especially during the years of his direct leadership, adding dozens of new company listings (42 NASDAQ companies defected to the NYSE in 2002 alone). But we can't be entirely sure, because the NYSE's boards of directors that gave Grasso this large sum over the years have been composed largely of the very people in the securities industry he has been in charge of monitoring and, in effect, regulating.
We would also feel more comfortable with Grasso's compensation if he had much earlier put the NYSE in the forefront of fighting the key battles for corporate reform, against conflicts of interest, and in favor of protecting individual investors from perfidious analysts. Instead, these problems festered during his tenure and ultimately led to a crisis of confidence in Wall Street and Corporate America. Grasso has just signed another two-year contract to be chairman. He now has an opportunity to improve on that legacy.