Illustration: Tomi Um This story is a collaboration between New York and ProPublica, an independent nonprofit newsroom. ProPublica research reporter Doris Burke contributed to this story. The unhappy heroine of The Mistakes Madeline Made, which premiered Off Broadway in 2006, hates working as one of 15 personal assistants to a ﬁnancier and his family. The patriarch, she observes, “runs his home the way he runs his hedge fund — using a model to protect his family against the possibility of loss or waste or even just the unexpected.” His “Household System” demands perfection: Even the hunt for a duplicate pair of New Balance sneakers is to be executed with the logistical ﬁnesse of a Navy SEAL strike. The play was written by Elizabeth Meriwether, who would go on to create the sitcom New Girl for Fox. Her fictionalized account of her brief stint working for the Wall Street billionaire David E. Shaw never reached a wide audience, but the script became samizdat among the harried members of Shaw staff — as the family’s highly compensated, Ivy-educated, hierarchical cadre is known. Her disgruntled protagonist’s job making sure “nothing bad can ever happen to this family” has felt familiar to some of… Read full this story
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