It's quite a payday. After months of speculation about the pay of New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso, the numbers were released on Aug. 27 -- and they are huge. As part of a deal that extends his term as chairman and CEO through May 31, 2007, Grasso, 57, is getting a one-time payment of $140 million. That's in addition to his $1.4 million annual paycheck and a "target annual bonus" of $1 million.
Of the lump sum, $91.6 million comes from accrued savings and retirement benefits, and $47.9 million is from prior incentive awards. In a statement, Grasso said that he was pocketing his accumulated compensation and benefits "in order to facilitate personal financial and estate planning."
Word of Grasso's package could turn up the heat on the NYSE chairman, who has been criticized for being removed from investor concerns. A spokesman for the SEC, which is probing stock exchange governance practices, says: "We are looking into the details." So even though the NYSE has given Grasso a vote of confidence, the SEC may not be so supportive. Christmas will come early for mutual-fund investors. Many could get millions of dollars in refunds from brokerage firms that failed to pass along promised discounts on sales commissions. In an unusual Aug. 26 industry-wide directive, the NASD, which regulates securities firms, ordered brokers to make refunds, with interest, to investors who were overcharged on their mutual-fund purchases. The crackdown follows NASD surveys that found most brokerage firms failed to cut sales commissions for investors whose holdings qualified them for discounts. On Aug. 27, Ford named Lewis Booth, who had been running the company's Mazda unit, to head its troubled European unit. Booth will be the fourth boss since 1999 at Ford of Europe, which has been struggling for a decade to rebuild profits and market share. A 54-year-old engineer, Booth replaces Martin Leach, who resigned as president and COO in August. Ford of Europe expected to beef up skimpy profits this year, but competition and currency swings helped drive it into the red in the first half. If the U.S. Air Force were a company, the Securities & Exchange Commission would be scrutinizing its $19.6 billion lease of Boeing refueling tankers. Why? To postpone the full cost of the 100-plane deal, the service is calling it an operating lease, not a purchase. But not everyone is convinced. In an Aug. 26 letter, the Congressional Budget Office concludes the transaction is a purchase and says it may be $2 billion more expensive than an outright purchase. While a purchase would require all the money to be budgeted up front, an operating lease allows annual payments. But despite the CBO's concerns, the Air Force, aided by the deal's political backers (BW -- July 7), may still get its way. WorldCom's legal troubles just got worse. On Aug. 27, Oklahoma Attorney General W.A. Drew Edmonson filed criminal securities charges against the telecom company, now known as MCI, and its founder, Bernard Ebbers. It is the first time in the recent corporate crime wave that states have taken the lead in criminally prosecuting a high-profile case. MCI agreed to "fully cooperate" with Oklahoma, confirming that it was still on track for a bankruptcy-court confirmation hearing on Sept. 8. Oklahoma's actions came a day after MCI agreed to implement boardroom changes recommended by its bankruptcy-court-appointed monitor. The changes include limiting directors' terms, prohibiting employee stock options, and separating the chairman and CEO jobs. If the changes are adopted, MCI chief Michael Capellas will have to give up one of his titles -- and he has said he would. It took a little kicking and screaming, but Siebel Systems (SEBL) finally agreed to reform its corporate governance to settle a shareholder lawsuit. Brought by the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana, the suit accused Siebel's board of approving excessive pay for founder and CEO Thomas Siebel and of failing to disclose option grants to directors. To settle the case, Siebel agreed to limit the number of options it grants to outside directors and to improve disclosure of option values and pay criteria for directors and executives. It also agreed to several board changes, including adding one new director and expanding the size of the compensation and governance committees. -- Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia reported an 86% drop in second-quarter profits.
-- Marlboro maker Altria approved a higher-than-expected 6.3% dividend increase.
-- Lockheed Martin agreed to pay $37.9 million to settle allegations that it overcharged the Air Force on contracts. With tech on the road to recovery, Wall Street is betting Fairchild Semiconductor will move into the fast lane, thanks to its broad chip portfolio. Fairchild's shares jumped 13.4%, to $16.97, on Aug. 27 on expectations that higher demand in the computer, automotive, and consumer-electronics sectors will boost revenues and profits.