NYSE defends its media strategy on Grasso

NEW YORK: More than a month after NYSE chairman Dick Grasso resigned after a media maelstrom erupted over his enormous pay package, Bob Zito, EVP of communications for the exchange, defended his media relations strategy during the crisis, and said that he hopes that a new leadership will keep his team intact.

NEW YORK: More than a month after NYSE chairman Dick Grasso resigned after a media maelstrom erupted over his enormous pay package, Bob Zito, EVP of communications for the exchange, defended his media relations strategy during the crisis, and said that he hopes that a new leadership will keep his team intact.

According to Zito, interim chairman John Reed said there will be no personnel changes until a successor is named.

Zito also said that his team is putting additional resources toward media relations, as the NYSE remains under increased press scrutiny. The team is relying on AOR Ketchum to assist with strategy and counsel.

Although many in the media have criticized the slow manner in which the NYSE's executive salaries were disclosed and the deliberate way in which the documents were made available to the media leading up to Grasso's departure, Zito remained unapologetic. Specifically, during the height of the scandal, the exchange refused to distribute copies of internal NYSE documents that outlined the rationale for Grasso's $139.5 million package. Instead, the exchange allowed reporters two hours to examine the mountain of documents within the confines of NYSE headquarters. That decision appeared to further alienate the business press, which had already run a fusillade of stories about the secretive nature of the payout to Grasso.

Zito said that he does not regret the decision. "We didn't want 1,200 pages floating around town," he said. "If people asked for a specific document, we gave it to them."

Chris Atkins, head of Ketchum's corporate practice, said that the process was intended to provide disclosure.

"It was frustrating because the documents were full of unbelievably complicated statistics. [The NYSE] wanted to offer the opportunity to go through the documents, and it became a feeding frenzy," said Atkins.

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