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Thursday, February 13, 2014

What's Behind the Extraordinary Number of Recent Deaths in High Finance?

Ryan Henry Crane became the 5th banker fatality in just the last few weeks alone. Crane was an Executive Director in JPM’s Global Program Trading desk based in New York and had been with the firm for 14 years. He died on Feb. 3 at his Stamford, Connecticut, home.

The cause of death will be determined when a toxicology report is completed in about six weeks, said a spokeswoman for the state’s chief medical examiner.

Gabriel Magee, a 39-year-old senior manager at JP Morgan’s European headquarters, jumped 500ft from the top of the bank’s headquarters in central London on January 27. Magee was a vice president in the corporate and investment bank technology department.

'It was bonus week at JP Morgan last week so I hope it wasn't to do with that', a co-worker said. A source close to Mr Magee said he was in 'good standing with his bosses and colleagues. He was well liked.'

JP Morgan's headquarters
in Canary Wharf, London
'No arrests have been made and the incident is being treated as non-suspicious at this early stage', a Met spokesman said.

Russell Investments
Seattle's Chase Center
A few days later, Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Russell Investments, fell down a 50 foot embankment in what police described as a suicide. Dueker was reported missing on January 29 by friends, who said he had been “having problems at work.”

On January 26, former Deutsche Bank executive William Broeksmit was found dead at his South Kensington home after police responded to reports of a man found hanging at a house. According to reports, Broeksmit had “close ties to co-chief executive Anshu Jain.”

Mr Broeksmit worked in investment banking - specifically risk and securities - and lived on exclusive Evelyn Gardens in South Kensington, which has an average property value of £1.9million.
Deutsche Bank, London

Mr. Broeksmit, an American, retired from Deutsche Bank last February. He had been slated to become the bank's chief risk officer, but his appointment was vetoed by the German banking regulator, which regarded him as lacking adequate experience, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

Co-CEO J├╝rgen Fitschen, described Mr. Broeksmit as "an instrumental founder of the investment bank" who was "considered by many of his peers to be among the finest minds in the fields of risk and capital management."

Richard Talley, 57, founder of American Title Services in Centennial, Colorado, was also found dead last week after apparently shooting himself with a nail gun. A family member found the 57-year-old dead in his garage, the Denver Post reported.

Richard Talley's Home
A CEO has committed suicide by shooting himself multiple times with a nail gun, a coroner reported on Friday. Talley, was found Tuesday with up to eight wounds to the torso and head.

Of course, there is something very odd about the method of death. It certainly could not have been a planned suicide, nobody's that stupid, are they? Most suicides don't get a second shot let alone eight. But it is possible, I guess, that in a fit of despair he tried to shoot himself in the chest several times, not landing a fatal wound, before finally shooting himself in the head.

On the other hand, murder by nail-gun is not very bright either.

The Department Of Regulatory Agencies confirmed that an investigation was focused on Talley and the company to the Post but gave no additional information.

Swiss Re AG, London
“We can only hope this disturbing chain of deaths within the financial industry – one of which involved a nail-gun induced suicide – is purely accidental,” writes Zero Hedge, a financial blog. Are you kidding? You can’t possibly shoot yourself 8 times with a nail gun accidentally.

Tim Dickenson, a U.K.-based communications director at Swiss Re AG, also died last month, although the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown.

Swiss Re AG  is The Swiss Reinsurance Company of Zurich. It is the world’s second-largest reinsurer, and 150 years old. A reinsurer insures insurance companies.

The Swiss Reinsurance Company was the lead insurer of the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks.

Swiss Re AG Headquarters, Zurich
The death last summer of a Bank of America Corp. intern in London whom colleagues said had recently been working exhaustive hours in the office. An inquest last November found that the 21-year-old intern died of an epileptic seizure that might or might not have been caused by the long hours.

Last August, Pierre Wauthier, the finance chief at Zurich Insurance Group committed suicide. He left a note blaming the company's chairman, Josef Ackermann, for creating an unbearable work environment. Mr. Ackermann resigned days later, acknowledging in a statement that Mr. Wauthier's family thought he "should take my share of responsibility, as unfounded as any allegations might be." He has declined further comment.

In November, Zurich Insurance said a probe found that Mr. Wauthier wasn't subjected to undue pressure from the insurer's leadership.

The effect of stress has reached senior levels. Last year, Barclays' head of compliance, Hector Sants, resigned from the bank due to what the bank described as exhaustion and stress.

Sir Hector Sants, is being lined up by the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a new financial taskforce.

(The Most Rev Justin Welby has approached Sir Hector, who also led the Financial Services Authority throughout the financial crisis, to drive payday lenders such as Wonga out of business and create a new way of thinking about finance.)

In response to the resignation of Sants, international firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Credit Suisse Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are introducing new measures to alleviate stress, particularly for up-and-coming employees. In Canada, the Bank of Montreal is following suite.

It's a remarkable string of deaths in high finance. It's certainly possible that they were stress induced, however, it's difficult to accept that they were all stress related. It will be interesting to see what the various investigations into their recent work turn up, hopefully, nothing too frightening.