What’s Been Killing All the Bankers?
It sounds like the plot of an Agatha Christie novel: a bunch of banking professionals from high-profile companies die under strange circumstances in the space of mere weeks. The rash of apparent suicides and unresolved deaths of employees of JP Morgan and other banking and investment firms in just two months has spawned theories ranging from arranged murders, to insider knowledge of impending doom, to the more prosaic explanation of intense stresses in the high pressure world of investing. And while there may be a bit of truth in all of these, there’s still no clear answer to the question what’s been killing all the bankers?
The spate of “bankercides” actually started back in December 2013, when a young employee of Bank of America died following a week on the job without sleep. In response, Bank of America swiftly changed its policies to require employees to take time off, and the incident, while regrettable, seemed to be an isolated case.
But 2014 began with a series of other deaths involving bankers and midlevel financial experts. January saw the suicides of Gabriel Magee of JP Morgan Chase, who jumped to his death from the roof of the bank’s London headquarters, Deutsche Bank executive William Broeksmit, who hanged himself, and Mike Dueker of Russell Investments, who fell down a 50-foot embankment.
Those deaths were followed in February by the suicide of JP Morgan banker Li Junjie, who leaped from the bank’s building in Hong Kong, and the strange deaths of several others including Ryan Henry Crane, whose death under suspicious circumstances was ruled a suicide, Richard Talley of American Title Services, who apparently shot himself 8 times with a nail gun, and Tim Dickinson of Swiss Re, whose cause of death remains unclear.
So many apparent suicides and other peculiar deaths, coming in quick succession at a time of great turmoil in the world of international finance, worries already jittery market watchers. The spectacle of established financial professionals leaping to their deaths from their office buildings echoes the Great Depression of the 1930s, when despairing bankers were jumping from windows and rooftops in anticipation of the impending collapse.
That scenario, given the recent troubles of the world’s leading economies and the seemingly endless string of investigations against JP Morgan Chase and other financial institutions, leads many to speculate that these bankers knew something the rest of us don’t about the world’s financial future.
The most extreme of the theories surrounding these deaths speculates that they weren’t suicides at all, but murders cleverly disguised as suicides, and that there are far more incidences than the ones being reported. Who arranged and committed these murders, and who took care of the cover-ups? No one seems to know. But even more mainstream versions of this line of thinking raise the possibility that these bankers had inside knowledge of a coming economic collapse of epic proportions – knowledge that drove them to end their lives.
For some, another explanation lies in the widely publicized and well-documented ongoing legal troubles facing the word’s big banks for malfeasance ranging from domestic bank fraud all the way to international rate fixing and a variety of Forex scandals. These investigations, which have led to settlements involving billions of dollars and new laws governing the banking industry, implicate major institutions in LIBOR rate fixing and other kinds of financial manipulation – and JP Morgan Chase leads the list of defendants.
As Gerald Celento of The Trend Journal tells it in a recent Alternative Media TV interview, the bank investigations hitting the headlines are only the tip of the iceberg, with more probes ongoing than are ever reported. These investigations target Forex trading and LIBOR manipulation, and put so much pressure on these institutions and their employees, who could face charges themselves, that they saw no way out but suicide.
But psychologists and epidemiologists say that while the number and timing of these latest “bankercides” may be troubling, they’re really part of a larger picture, one which is disturbing in its own right – the pressure-filled world of high finance and the toll it takes on many of its best and brightest workers.
A recent New York Post piece on the phenomenon featured an interview with Dr. Christine Moutier of the American Association of Suicidology, who acknowledged that the clustering of deaths is “striking,” but it may only reflect an elevated rate of suicide among financial professionals in general.
According to the Post, recent suicide stats from the Centers for Disease Control show that there’s an elevated rate of suicide among finance workers, who face a 39% higher incidence than the general population. That rate isn’t the highest, though – it’s a distant third, following that of lawyers (54%) and doctors, who top the list at 98% more likely to kill themselves than the general population.
What makes financial workers more likely to commit suicide than people in most other professions? Experts cite a combination of professional and personal factors. The world of investment banking and financial services in general has always been fast paced, full of pressure and competition. With the recent exposure of highly profitable but largely illegal practices, the banking industry faces more scrutiny than ever, and new regulations make it harder to produce profits than in the past.
The banking world isn’t what it used to be. Jobs are no longer secure, and competition for top spots is fierce. Asking for help marks someone as weak, so stresses –from whatever sources – mount. And this pressure cooker environment, which is encouraged by the institutions themselves, creates a toxic, but highly addictive, environment that can destroy as well as reward its best performers.
The truth about 2014’s rash of deaths may never be known, and those who do know certainly aren’t able to tell. The most likely explanation draws from the various theories being floated: pressure from investigations that threaten to expose tightly held secrets and illegal dealings combined with personal factors and a high-intensity work environment. Still, the “bankercides” of ‘14” bear an uncomfortable resemblance to scenes from the past – and they may, like canaries in a mineshaft, signal time for change in the world of high stakes finance. (Carla McKinney – VNN)
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Gray, Michael. “JP Morgan Suicide is 3rd Mysterious Death in Weeks.” The New York Post. NYPost.com 18 Feb 2014
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