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Jeff and Liz.

white men with money

Unmasking Portfolio’s Anonymous TARP Wife

What's fun about reading the sundry "I Used To Be Rich" stories appearing in various publications is that the heroines — and the writers of these stories are almost always women, for some reason — aren't actually poor. They're merely worried that they're going to be poor. Like Alexandra Penney, who transfixed readers of the Daily Beast by worrying aloud if she'd ever be able to afford nice linens after losing money to Bernie Madoff, or the "former hedge fund wife" who told Bazaar she is now substituting potted plants for fresh-cut flowers as a cost-saving measure. These ladies are cutting back on small luxuries, not building leaky lean-tos for themselves in the forest after their homes have been repossessed, and therefore their stories are fun to read, rather than depressing. Portfolio's "Confessions of a TARP Wife" story today is especially fun, not just because of the eye-rolling details (our heroine hasn’t even looked at spring clothes, and opted to hold her husband's annual birthday party at a "small, chic" restaurant instead of the usual five-star Michelin joint), but because of the amount of clues the writer, whose husband is "CEO of one of the biggest TARP recipients," leaves to her identity. Who is this couple who, now that they are employed at the federal government's pleasure, resents having to "sneak in late to black-tie galas after society photographer Patrick McMullan has packed up his camera and gone home" for fear of being taken out by an angry mob? Let's try to guess.

We'll use process of elimination.

Clue 1: They live in New York. "For the past 15 years or so, I have thrown my husband a birthday party. We traditionally celebrate with about 30 friends, mostly New York pals we’ve known for decades."

This gives us sixteen institutions to go on: Citigroup, Signature Bank, First American International, Carver Bancorp, American Express, New York Private Bank & Trust, CIT Group, GMAC Financial Services, Sterling Bancorp, Intervest Bancshares, AIG, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley.

Clue 2: Husband is a "perennial class president," "high-school sports star," "Ivy League MBA."

Okay, this narrows the pool. Excepting Carver CEO Deborah Wright, who is a lady, of the CEOs of the corporations above, only NY Bank and Trust Howard P. Milstein, CIT Group's Jeffrey M. Peek, JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon, and Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein are Ivy League graduates.

Clue 3: "Our net worth is tied up in stock that is down 95 percent."
Okay, it's not Jamie Dimon or Lloyd Blankfein's wife. Both CIT and NY Bank and Trust have dropped precipitously in the past year.

Clue 4: "Last year, before it became fashionable to do so, my husband refused a bonus."
Ugh, everyone gave up their bonus last year. We're skipping this one.

Clue 5: Wife says her husband's hair has turned "from gray to grayer, as he tries to lead his company through this mess."
Hmmm. Both of our remaining contenders, Howard Milstein and Jeffrey Peek, have grayish hair. But Peek's is grayer.

Clue 6: Aha! Jeffrey Peek's wife is former New York Sun business columnist Liz Peek. Done and done.

Confessions of a TARP Wife [Portfolio]

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Photo: Patrick McMullan