April 13, 2010
Lehman's Desperate Housewives in Vanity Fair
Posted by Christine Hurt

This month's Vanity Fair is the "Money" issue, with an excerpt from Michael Lewis' new book, an interview with Michael Douglas of Gordon Gekko fame, and an excerpt from The Devil's Casino:  Friendship, Betrayal, and the High Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers.  The latter seems to be not a textbook on risk or byzantine derviative transactions but a book about the people at Lehman Brothers, specifically the wives.

In the excerpted portions, we get a glimpse of the ways in which the Lehman culture demanded certain things from its executives and the women who married them.  I can't imagine that many of our readers in law or business will be shocked that when men have demanding jobs that pay them tens of millions a year, their spouses have to endure a lot of loneliness and to form not-so-real friendships with the other spouses.  Shocked.  Shocked.  I would imagine the same book could be written about Goldman wives, Skadden wives, Cravath wives, etc.  (This book seems to mention only male executives and their female spouses; of course, another interesting book would be about male spouses of female executives or same-sex partners, etc.)

Here's the gist, from Karin Jack, ex-wife of Bradley Jack, former co-C.O.O.:

Brad didn't do one single thing for 20 years that wasn't Lehman Brothers. . . .As a Lehman wife, you raised the kids by yourself. You had your babies by yourself in the hospital. And then you were supposed to be happy and pretty and smiling when there was an event, and you really would have like to have strangle somebody."

Wives were not only expected to keep the domestic life going on their own, but also expected to rally for firm events and charitable fundraising programs. The annual retreat to Sun Valley gets a lot of play, including a challenging annual hike up Bald Mountain.

I may read the whole book, but I won't find it shocking that people that make a lot of money also make unpleasant sacrifices for them and their families. Having been both an associate at a law firm and a spouse of an associate-then-partner, I've seen a lot. In fact, I may read it for the humor. One of my favorite lines concerns Mary Anne Pettit, whose husband Chris Petit, left her for another woman. "She had stuck with him through tough times when they were so poor they couldn't afford blinds for the windows in their house." Wow. You'd think going through that kind of harship would make you really tight.

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