MSNBC Host: Former NYSE Chief 'Poster Child' for 'Excess'

     You can win in a court of law and still get attacked in the court of public opinion. That’s what former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso would have learned from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” July 2.


     Host Mika Brzezinski called Grasso a “poster child for Wall Street excess” in reporting a New York State Supreme Court ruling allowing Grasso to keep his $187.5 million pension payout.


    “There you go, a little justice there,” Brzezinski said. “Jack Welch calls it justice; I call it a very large pay package. It’s a lot of money, Jack.”


     Former General Electric (NYSE: GE) Chairman Jack Welch came to Grasso’s defense. “It’s a lot of money, but it was well earned and it was given to him by the board of directors and he took it,” Welch said. “I haven’t seen any CEOs in my lifetime who said, ‘please, please keep it.’”


     In a later segment, guest host Pat Buchanan piled on Grasso as well. “A 190-million-bucks going away present after 9-11? You don’t see the problem there? We got a problem in middle America,” he said to CNBC’s Larry Kudlow, a guest on the show.


     But Kudlow joined Welch in defending his “friend,” Grasso.


     “Middle America does not want to take from the rich, Mr. Obama,” Kudlow told Buchanan. “You sound like Obama on this for God’s sake. Middle America doesn’t want to take from the rich; middle America wants people to do their jobs and open up opportunity.”


     Early in the segment Kudlow described the work Grasso did after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the NYSE.


     “Dick Grasso is a great American, for a number of reasons,” Kudlow said to Buchanan. “At 9-11 … in the next ten days with Herculean efforts he got the New York Stock Exchange, which is the symbol of capitalism that the terrorists were trying to attack, he got it up and going, Herculean efforts to get it going … right there is worth a $100 million in my opinion.”


     Grasso was locked in a multiyear battle with former New York attorney general Elliot Sptizer after details of Grasso’s pay were revealed in 2003. As reported by Bloomberg, Spitzer then sued in 2004 saying Grasso’s pay was unduly high for a not-for-profit corporation.


     Current New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo, picked up where Spitzer left off, pursuing the case after the 2006 elections. The ruling July 1 gave Grasso his pension on the grounds that the state lost its right to recover Grasso’s money when the NYSE was converted to a for-profit business in 2006.


     In an interview Grasso told The Wall Street Journal, July 2, “I’ve always had confidence in the system. After five years of this, it’s over. And it’s time to move on.”


     Grasso rose from clerk to chairman over the 35 years he spent working at the NYSE. The International Herald Tribune reported July 2 that even though there was a large sum of money at stake for Grasso, his fight was not about money but honor and despite pressure from Spitzer, Grasso did not want to settle the case.