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How Wall Street Will Cash In When Your Spouse Cheats on You

Financiers are getting a piece of the infidelity action in America.

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The wizards of Wall Street never leave your side. They’re on hand to make money off you at every stage of life — in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer. They even turn a profit when you die.

So it should probably come as no surprise that they’re now poised to reap rewards from your adulterous affair. One thing you can say about Wall Street: They know from cheating. And cheating is big business in America.

Sin is lucrative, and financiers feel it is their solemn duty to get in on any activity that legally (or quasi-legally) makes a profit. That includes gambling, smoking, drinking (even raves), and now, bless their clever souls, playing around on your spouse.  

Wall Street knows that the path to fulfillment in America is paved with self-indulgence, and they would very much like to assist us in cultivating our appetites for sexual and material gratification. The Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy finds that nearly 50 percent of married women and 60 percent of men will stray outside the marriage for sex at some point. Before the Internet, Wall Street wasn’t able to cash in on all that hooking up. But times have changed.

Enter Ashley Madison

In a long-ago epoch, people searching for extramarital fun would have to cruise conferences, warm bar stools, or try their luck with classified newspaper ads. Today, it’s easy to let your fingers do the walking. Websites like and offer semi-anonymous hookups. Craigslist’s Casual Encounters will give you just that, whether your idea of casual involves phone sex or shemales.

What if you just want to have a good old-fashioned affair, complete with dinner dates and actual conversation? The stuff you used to do with your spouse? That’s where Ashley Madison comes in with its cheerful slogan: “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Born in Toronto in 2001 and christened with two popular and innocent-sounding baby names, Ashley Madison promotes the somewhat paradoxical idea that you can have a great open marriage—even if your spouse doesn’t know it’s open.

Diving into Ashley Madison, which has its own blog and Twitter feed, is like entering a weirdly compelling parallel universe where the rules you’ve always been taught do not apply. The tone is breezy, upbeat and nakedly commercial (“First Date With Your Affair Partner? 6 Online Shopping Experiences to Help You Look Good for Less and Seal the Deal”).

Content is mildly cheesy, often crass (Fingerbanging 101), but at times even touchingly earnest (hey, this isn’t just a fuck-buddy, it’s a human being!). In this realm, the American Way is clearly life, liberty and the pursuit of infidelity.

Naturally, people have been signing up in droves. In a recent Newsweek  profile “ Wall Street Loves a Cheater,” Lynnley Browning reports that membership has “nearly quadrupled over the last five years, to 12.7 million in the United States and another 8.3 million overseas in 30 countries.”

Who are these people? As Browning notes, reports reveal that the Ashley Madison membership community is 70 percent men and 30 percent women. America’s top cheating city, according to company data, is Washington, D.C., where over 6 percent of residents have paid memberships. (Founder Noel Biderman reports getting perplexed calls from the Justice Department and the IRS about inexplicable credit card charges.) The company also found that the top alma mater for cheaters is the University of Minnesota (we did hear of interesting goings-on in the Minneapolis airport bathroom). It looks like the Ivy Leaguers are finding their action elsewhere, perhaps through high-end escort services. Or there’s always the pool boy.