Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt found dead after working long hours | Mail Online

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an extremely depressing story reported in the Mail Online. It’s a MUST READ. Check it out!

via Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt found dead after working long hours | Mail Online.

This story takes me back to when I was a part-time tutor to Masters’ students at EAP (Ecole Affairs de Paris – a French Grand Ecole

ESCP Europe

ESCP Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– this subsequently became ESCP and was ranked No.1 worldwide by the Financial Times in 2010 for its Masters in Management). The students were exceptionally bright, typically from privileged backgrounds were required to undertake, at that time, internships in London, Paris and Berlin. In London, there was always intense competition to get a place in a prestigious investment bank, especially by the German students. I remember vividly one German student who described the practice of “working over the top”; he meant around the clock. Interns in investment banks are typically glorified “goffers” but there is intense competition to do a good job and hopefully be offered a job when they finish their studies. There was another German student who completed his internship in a major consulting house – he too worked very long hours to create the right impression; a few years later, in his late twenties, he died on a squash court.

This is the other side of austerity, where privileged students tap in to their connections to gain an internship in a big-named organization to put on their CV or possibly be well-placed to be later offered a job. Of course, these students are typically from families in the top 1% income range.

Most students of ordinary families from the “great unwashed”, the 99% do not get a sniff at these prestigious internships and, off course, their careers follow much humbler trajectories.

Let me turn this to an open question:

How can internships be cleaned -up?

Any thoughts?

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10 responses

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  9. Dr Alf has raised difficult issues within this blog about the intense competition for high flyers that prevails in the rarified atmosphere of the investment banking community and the processes it uses to find and reward and develop the so called “Masters of the Universe”.

    These were once depicted as the Gordon Gekko character, played by Michael Douglas in the 2 Wall Street films but because of the failings of the UK education system many of these aspirant investment bankers come from countries within and outside of the EU where the teaching of mathematics is of a much higher standard.

    Moritz Erhardt the 21 year old Bank Of America Merrill Lynch (BOAML) intern, who died after
    working for 3 days and nights without sleep in a row, was typical of the sort of employee employed by City/Wall Street investment banks.

    He was also like many young people in pressurized environments, who are expected to perform to extraordinary lengths.

    The hours worked by Junior hospital doctors used to be not dissimilar to the hours worked by BOAML until they were limited by the EU’s Working Time Directive, airline pilots, lorry drivers and others used to drive until they got what the Americans called “White line fever” and even now, we hear of a Ryanair pilot being dismissed for” industrial misconduct” because he revealed the numbers of hours he was being forced to work, the low margin of error in terms of fuel that he was allowed to complete his flights with.

    In Japan many of the so called “salarymen” have literally died of overwork or been found dead in one of their sleeping pods. The spouse of one tried to sue her late husband’s employer for working her husband to death but the Japanese courts were highly unsympathetic and threw the case out.

    At GE and what is now part of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group PLC, I can remember working on pre acquisition due diligence for several days at a stretch without sleep and often at different ends of the country after hours of driving.When I did it, I was considerably older than the youthful Moritz Erhardt but these sorts of time pressures are not untypical when you are locked into a very tight timetable by a CEO who demands 125% and a perfect report or dazzling presentation by 7.00AMm on Monday morning.

    Dr Alf asks what can be done to make internships cleaner.

    Clearly they will have to be regulated as to:

    –Pay(Too many carry no salary of any kind)

    –Access(Competition is fierce but the process must be opened up to a wider range of people)

    –Hours and intensity of workload

    Studies commissioned by the world’s military forces show that without sleep,performance falls,mistakes are made and that eventually madness and death ensue.

    That is why commandos on night operations were given amthetamines to enable them to complete their missions but afterwards had to get some sleep.

    People have physical, mental, emotional and psychological limits and we cannot push people to those limits and expect no casualties.

    Moritz Erhardt was a casualty which may or may not have been avoidable and his relatives may well have a case for breach of an employers duty of care and a massive payout.

    Until there are more deaths and successful legal action is brought nothing will change but there is no doubt something needs to be done to break this cult of testosterone fueled lunacy.

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