Slavery in the City: Death of 21-year-old intern Moritz Erhardt at Merrill Lynch sparks furore over long hours and macho culture at banks

Young German worked until 6am for three consecutive days before collapse at home in east London    

Serious concerns have been raised tonight about the punishing hours endured by interns at City investment banks following the death of a young Bank of America Merrill Lynch employee.

Moritz Erhardt, 21, was nearing the end of a seven-week internship in London when he collapsed at home after working until 6am for three days in a row.

His body was discovered by his flatmates. The circumstances of his death are unknown, but police are not treating them as suspicious. Some reports suggested that Mr Erhardt, from Freiburg, south-west Germany, was epileptic.

Around 300 interns working at various banks stay at the Claredale House student accommodation complex in Bethnal Green in east London for between seven and 10 weeks over the summer. One intern, who did not want to be named, told The Independent those in Mr Erhardt’s investing banking division group faced the longest hours.

He said: “We all work long hours, but the guys working regularly until 3am or 4am are those in investment banking. People working in markets will have to be in at 6am but not stay as late, so what time you can leave the office depends on your division.

“You’re only doing it for up to 10 weeks so there’s a general acceptance of it. I see many people wandering around, blurry-eyed and drinking caffeine to get through but people don’t complain because the potential rewards are so great. We’re competing for some very well-paid jobs.”

Another intern living at Claredale claimed that Mr Erhardt, who had been earning £2,700 a month or £45,000 pro rata, collapsed from exhaustion. “He apparently pulled eight all-nighters in two weeks. They get you working crazy hours and maybe it was just too much for him in the end,” they said.

Users of the popular finance blog wallstreetoasis.com insisted Mr Erhardt regularly worked long hours, with his final three days consisting of 21-hour stints in the office. One said: “He was found dead in the shower by his flatmate. Intern at BAML who went home at 6am three days in a row.”

Mr Erhardt was found last Thursday around 8.30pm and was pronounced dead at the scene. His parents are believed to be in the UK where a post-mortem and inquest will now take place.

The London-based cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra spoke of the health risks to which young banking interns are exposed. He said: “Although we don’t know for sure what caused such a tragic death, we know that working excessive hours, especially night shifts, is an extra risk to health.

“Last year the BMJ [medical journal] published the largest and most comprehensive review of over two million people concluding that those working shifts and especially night shifts were at significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s probably related to a combination of sleep deprivation and added stress.”

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said it could not comment on the claims about the hours that Mr Erhardt had been working. John McIvor, head of international communications at Merrill Lynch, said: “All the rumours and comments are just that. We will have to wait and see what the post-mortem examination says.” He added: “Our first thoughts are with his family and we send our condolences to them.”

Mr McIvor refused to say whether or not it was common for staff to work through the night. He said: “I have not got any comment to make on our work patterns.” But he added: “Do people in investment banking sometimes work long hours? Yes they do.”

Mr Erhardt appears to have been one of many interns caught on the so-called “magic roundabout” – a process whereby a taxi takes interns home, waits outside while they shower and change, then drives them back to the office to begin another long day.

FinanceInterns, a careers advice group, condemned the City’s long-hours culture. A spokesperson said: “Young people who jubilantly accept a summer internship thinking they’ve landed a chance at their dream job, find themselves declaring that, what should have been a summer full of hope, is in fact the ‘worst three months’ of their lives due to the exhausting combination of all-nighters, weekend work and the magic roundabout.

“In the toughest job-market experienced in recent times, competition is even higher. Consequently these talented, diligent, young people are ever more willing to work hours which more senior staff would not.”

Mr Erhardt studied business administration at the University of Michigan before attending WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany, where he was due to graduate next year. He had already completed placements at KPMG Consulting, Morgan Stanley, and in Deutsche Bank’s corporate finance division.

Additional reporting by Tony Paterson

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future