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Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch will review its working practices and culture of long hours following the death of a German intern last week, who colleagues said had pulled three all-nighters in a row before being discovered by emergency services.
One of the world’s largest banks issued a statement on Friday afternoon expressing shock at the death of 21-year-old Moritz Erhardt, who was working in Merrill Lynch’s investment banking division, and announced a review of working practices with a special focus on junior members of staff.
Erhardt, from south-west Germany, was found dead in a shower cubicle at his temporary accommodation in east London last Thursday evening.
The death of the “dedicated” student sent shockwaves through the world of global finance, as reports of his alleged extreme working habits sparked debate about the culture of punishing hours in some high-profile financial divisions.
A Bank of America statement said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Moritz Erhardt’s death. Moritz Erhardt was popular amongst his peers and was a highly diligent intern at our company with a bright future.
“Our immediate priority is to do everything we can to continue to support the Erhardt family, our interns and impacted employees at this extremely difficult time. We have also convened a formal senior working group to consider the facts as they become known, to review all aspects of this tragedy, to listen to employees at all levels and to help us learn from them.”
A spokesman from the bank said the panel would review “all aspects of working practices with a particular focus on our junior population”. He added: “We’re going to look at everything.”
He said it was too early to say how long the panel would take to complete the study but it would involve very senior members at the multinational bank who would have the capability to bring in third parties for extra scrutiny.
“If the committee decides it wants some additional expertise then they can go and hire it,” the spokesman said. “We will look at hard factual evidence. We want a lot of employee feedback and we’re going into this with no preconceptions as to what the outcome will be.”
The exact circumstances surrounding Erhardt’s death are yet to be officially determined. The coroner’s court at Poplar told the Guardian that no decision had yet been taken as to whether an inquest would go ahead. A toxicology report as part of the autopsy conducted by Prof Petter Vanezis, was yet to be filed.
A fellow intern at the bank described the aspiring student as a “superstar”, adding: “He worked very hard and was very focused. We typically work 15 hours a day or more and you would not find a harder worker than him.” He told the Evening Standard: “He seemed a lovely guy and was very popular with everyone. He was tipped for greatness.”
According to his biography on the social media platform Seelio, Erhardt said he was naturally inquisitive and had previously stated that he’d undertaken work experience at Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank’s corporate finance division.
Polly Courtney, author of Golden Handcuffs and an intern at Merrill Lynch in 2001 before its merger with Bank of America, said the culture of punishingly long hours was endemic. “During my internship, all-nighters were like a rite of passage. They were discussed among us in the Merrill Lynch canteen each night with an outward sense of loathing, but tinged with pride. You weren’t seen as a ‘proper’ analyst until you’d worked through the night.
“It wasn’t just a culture of long hours and hard work; it was more a culture of desperately trying to impress, with ‘face time’ – pretending to be hard at work even when you were done for the night – and backstabbing – taking credit for a job well done, blaming others for problems – both commonplace.
“Ultimately, the money and perks could never make up for the exhaustion or the lack of control we all had over our lives, but it took most of us a few years to realise this. Looking back, the money was just an anaesthetic.”
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)