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Former NYSE Chief Grasso Wins Appeal On Some Pay Claims

Former New York Stock Exchange chairman Richard Grasso has won a battle in his legal quest to hold onto his $187.5 million compensation package.

The decision Tuesday by the New York Appellate Division in Manhattan threw out four rulings against Grasso that had been made by a lower court last year. The high court did not address three other issues at the heart of the case.

The four rulings, dealing with technical issues, were reversed on the grounds that the state attorney general did not have the authority to bring them in the first place.

Grasso's attorney, Gerson Zweifach, declined comment.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer will appeal, said spokesman Darren Dopp.

"This is a qualified victory for Grasso," reported CNBC's Charlie Gasparino, who said that four of six causes of action were thrown out. "The remaining causes of action are whether his pay was unreasonable under New York state law and whether he breached his fiduciary responsibility when he took the money."

Several major appeals are still outstanding, including whether Grasso will have to pay back $100 million of his compensation package and whether he will be tried by a judge or a jury trial, Gasparino said. Grasso told Gasparino that he is studying the ruling; his preference is to fight it out in court to clear his name. The appellate division will issue more rulings on Thursday, he added.

In January, an attorney fighting to retain Grasso's compensation package told the higher court that a fully informed "blue chip" board of directors had approved the compensation and he should not be forced to give it back.

Grasso joined the NYSE, in 1968 as a clerk earning $81 a week and worked his way up to vice president in charge of listings then to chairman in 1995. He left the NYSE, now a unit of NYSEEuronext, in 2003 amid turmoil over his pay. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The state attorney general's office has been trying to recover some of the $187.5 million pay package Grasso received in 2003. It contends that the compensation was unreasonable under state laws governing not-for-profit organizations.

Spitzer, elected governor in November, had argued Grasso wasn't entitled to more than $18.3 million, only a portion of what he was paid, because he left the exchange early. Grasso left amid public criticism of his compensation.

"I don't know anything about it," Spitzer said Tuesday. "I'll go right now and find out because I'm curious."

Cuomo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.