RSS
What's up with the recent rash of banker suicides?
Some see systemic doom and gloom in the deaths
 
Time to panic?
Time to panic? (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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.

At first glance, it does appear that something funny is going on. On Jan. 26, former Deutsche Bank executive William Broeksmit was found dead at his London home after he reportedly hanged himself.

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.

 
John Aziz is the economics and business editor at TheWeek.com. He is also an associate editor at Pieria.co.uk. Previously his work has appeared on Business Insider, Zero Hedge, and Noahpinion.

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week