Jonah, here’s the distinction I should have made: Of course it’s fine for all of us to squawk and moan about Grasso’s compensation, just as you—and the author of the email you posted—suggest. But the “whose business is it?” argument is still valid and important. How come? Because about two seconds into our squawking and complaining, some politician somewhere is bound to use the public’s irritation as an excuse for getting Big Mama—the feds—into the picture, holding hearings, threatening regulation, and all the rest. Whose business is it? Not the government’s.
As for the point offered by your learned correspondent that the NYSE receives government protections, true enough. At this late stage in the game, however, what commerical entity of any size doesn’t receive at least implicit protection of some kind from our all-knowing, all-seeing, and omnipresent federal government? Pharmaceutical companies? The FDA. Media companies? The FCC. Automobile manufacturers? The Departments of Commerce and Transportation.
I’m all in favor of whacking away at the federal regulatory regime—for that matter, I’m all in favor of exposing the Big Board to full and unbridled competition. But if government oversight and protection make a CEO’s salary a matter for public intervention, then there’s not a board in the country that’s free to compensate its CEO on its own terms. Grasso’s compensation, I still contend, is between Grasso and the New York Stock Exchange.