A new book, The Devil's Casino: Friendship, Betrayal and the High Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers, depicts the lives of Lehman Brothers wives as pampered, yes, but also lonely and rather mundane. One wife gave "tours of her vast shoes closets," and lived with her husband Joe Gregory on an annual personal budget of $15 million. They had both "a seaplane and a helicopter ready for the daily commute," but beyond all that stuff, keeping up appearances was simply exhausting.
To promote an atmosphere of trust for its clients, Lehman Brothers wanted all its executives to have happy and healthy (looking) marriages, which meant that "If you were married to a Lehmanite, you belonged to the firm," writes the book's author Vicky Ward (excerpts are published in April's Vanity Fair). As such, “canceled dinners, weekends, and vacations” were routine. Speaking of vacations, company trips were also a real bitch. "Hiking was mandatory for all,” recalls one wife, adding that packing was “an absolute nightmare."
Any scintilla of sympathy one feels while reading these passages isn't brought on by the knowledge the wives will soon lose all their shoes and aircrafts, but at the whole mess they've gotten themselves into to begin with. Ward writes that the women became social pariahs when their husbands lost their positions in the firm, so when Lehman Brothers comes crashing down it seems as though they should be relieved. Ward says one wife, Kathy Fuld, learned what "Lehman wives had learned before her: 'When your husband leaves Lehman, you become a ghost.' But in Kathy's case, Lehman had become a ghost along with her."