If you've visited sites like those run by New York magazine and the Observer over the past couple of months, you may have noticed, in the comments section, repeated instances of a message that begins, "Steve Ratner [sic]... has paid my wife $500,000.00 to leave me." If you saw these comments, you probably wondered what the hell was going on. Well, the Times this morning sheds precious little light on the situation because, get this, there is a Steven Rattner, he did sleep with that guy's wife and now, as a result of the angry ex-husband's smear campaign, he has vacated his job atop the private equity division of Credit Suisse. The lesson, as relayed by the Times' hotshot finance writer Andrew Ross Sorkin, is that the internet renders "helpless" ordinary plutocrats who just want to hush up stories about how they allegedly taunted and harassed the husbands of the high-class escorts they procured on trips abroad. Wait, what?

You wouldn't know it from reading Sorkin's column, which coddles Rattner while filleting his nemesis, but the cuckolded husband, Tommi Cosgrove, alleges much more than a simple affair on the part of Rattner and his wife

Sorkin omits most of Cosgrove's allegations from his column even though the banker himself told the Times, "everyone has heard... the damage is done." It's worth noting that Rattner tells Sorkin "most everything Mr. Cosgrove claims is either untrue or a gross exaggeration," but no details are provided.

Here's the smear "everyone has heard:"

Steve Ratner, of 11 Madison Avenue New York, and business partner of Donald Trump, friend of Bloomberg and rich kid has paid my wife $500,000.00 to leave me.

He further promised a Ferrari, house and more cash.

He met my wife when she was working as a high class escort in London through Bella's escort services, where he finds all his girlfriends and where all his rich mates shop.

He has had me followed, investigated and threatened and continues to send text messages bragging about his victory.

This guy couldn't get laid if he was good looking, but uses his money to get what he wants

There are photos, emails, letters and even photos taken in Kirsty Alley's house in LA.

Rich People, they think they can buy anything. This guy's favourite movies are "Pretty Woman" and "Indecent Proposal", jeez what an idiot.

I warned you MR. RATNER, I would not let this rest. I am coming for you big time.

To be featured on FACEBOOK & MYSPACE very soon

Also featured in the book, "the coffin maker", a true story.

Mr. Ratner keeps getting my posts removed as he is very embarrassed to have to admit to buying his girlfriends and having to pay for sex, but if you met him, you would understand why.............

Mr. Ratner - the story doesn't end until i say so. have a nice life. Everyone will know Steve Ratner pays for sex and stole my wife with $500,000.00 and a car.

Even as his column bemoans the negative impact of these allegations on Rattner, Sorkin omits them in their particulars. He mentions only a nebulous "affair," doesn't press Rattner for a detailed denial of the other allegations and paints Rattner as a repentant, reformed husband and father. "This ought to be a story that, while painful, remained private," Sorkin scolds.

Cosgrove, meanwhile, is repeatedly implied, without any real evidence, to be mentally imbalanced, a liar or both:

To be honest, it's hard to read Mr. Cosgrove's florid account without concluding that he has, at a minimum, a vivid imagination. In one of my conversations with him, he alleged that he had "threats on my life by underworld associates;" that he was living in his car for a while; and that Mr. Rattner had been willing to pay him, through his ex-wife, $70,000 to disappear.

...Asked whether he was happy that Mr. Rattner resigned from his job, Mr. Cosgrove, reached on his mobile telephone Monday, said, "He should have thought about that before he did what he did to me." Moments later, Mr. Cosgrove claimed he didn't even know Mr. Rattner, which didn't exactly heighten confidence in his accusations.

Sure, it's hard to trust a guy who, rather randomly, invokes Kirstie Ally in the sad saga of his wife's cheating, and then spams that story onto news websites, compounding his own humiliation. And it would be prudent to assume most of Cosgrove's wild allegations are false without evidence to the contrary.

But that doesn't mean the Times has license to paint Rattner as an all-but-innocent victim, swallowing his claim that he was literally "helpless against the destruction that can be wrought by aggressive campaigns on the Internet" and asserting in the headline that "On Wall St., Reputation Is Fragile," as though executives in other industries would somehow be left unscathed by tawdry escort-wife-stealing smears spammed to friends and associates via email and blog comments.

As a high-powered Wall Street executive, Rattner surely had the financial resources to mount a libel suit, as complicated as one might be across international lines, against Cosgrove.

But Rattner also could have fought back swiftly online, calling out lies while acknowledging those accusations that were true. A new website can be had for free at blogger.com or wordpress.com. The real cost would have been the pain of admitting to whatever actual, real wrongdoing he committed against his family and possibly others. That must be a brutally painful thing to do, particularly when the private lives of others remain just that. But it is far from a "helpless" situation.

Perhaps Sorkin slanted his story the way he did because he sensed his own role in this drama. His column, in the end, is what made Cosgrove's revenge complete, humiliating Rattner not in the sewers of the internet but from a distinguished platform on his home turf. And no amount of disdain can undo that.


(Photo via TheDeal.com)