Certain sections of the internet are abuzz with the news that a spate of bankers has recently committed suicide. What many of these stories imply is that a new financial crisis may be on the horizon — if bankers are committing suicide en masse, then they must be doing it because of huge trading losses or an impending prosecution.
Gabriel Magee, a 39-year-old senior manager at JPMorgan Chase’s European headquarters, jumped 500 ft from the top of the bank’s headquarters in central London on Jan. 27, landing on an adjacent rooftop.
Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Russell Investments, fell down a 50-foot embankment in what police are describing as a suicide. He was reported missing on Jan. 29 by friends, who said he had been "having problems at work."
Ryan Henry Crane, a 37-year-old JP Morgan executive director, died last week. The cause of death will be determined when a toxicology report is completed in about six weeks, but suicide is suspected.
Tim Dickenson, a U.K.-based communications director at Swiss Re, also died last month, although the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown.
This week, an investment banker at JP Morgan jumped to his death from the roof of the bank's headquarters in Hong Kong. Witnesses said the man went to the roof of the 30-story Chater House in the heart of Hong Kong's central business district, and took the plunge despite attempts to talk him down.
Another story lumped in with these in blog posts and articles has been the death of Richard Talley, 57, founder of insurance company American Title Services in Centennial, Colo. He was found dead earlier this month after apparently shooting himself with a nail gun.
Every incident sounds tragic. But is it really abnormal for the finance industry to experience seven possible suicides in the space of a month?
Let’s do a back-of-an-envelope calculation. The U.S. has a suicide rate of about 12 people per 100,000 per year. Roughly 5.9 million people are employed in the American financial sector. Assuming the industry has the same suicide rate as the rest of the population — even with higher-than-average stress levels — one would expect 708 suicides in any given year, or nearly 60 per month in the U.S. alone.
Given that just three of the seven incidents (some of which may not have been suicides) occurred in the U.S., this suggests that the number is not excessive or unusual. Seven hundred suicides perhaps would be cause for raising eyebrows. Not seven.
So this "trend" is more of a case of bloggers and writers conspiracy-mongering without looking properly at the evidence.
Of course, these individuals may have killed themselves after making trading losses, or due to other work-related problems. But that hardly suggests we are on the verge of a financial crash. Lots of traders have made huge trading losses without triggering a financial crash or crisis.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Israel has only two choices: Eliminate the Palestinians or make peace
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 9 things you probably didn't know about the moon
- 10 burning questions you've always wanted to ask about investing
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- What these custom, 3D-printed earphones say about the future of consumer technology
- Why America is duty bound to help Iraqi Christians
- 10 things you need to know today: July 22, 2014
Subscribe to the Week