And the passing of a Wall Street trader earlier this week seems to have given new life to these speculations.
First, consider these earlier deaths, the ones that seemed to have inspired all the scare headlines about “banker suicides”:
1. Karl Slym: The 51-year-old Tata Motors managing director was found dead near a Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok on Jan. 25, 2014. The British businessman jumped to his death, police said. His wife told local law enforcement officials that they had recently fought “at length” about a personal family matter. She said they argued for so long “she could not talk to her husband anymore.” Thai police said they found no trace of a struggle.
2. William Broeksmit: The recently retired 58-year-old senior executive at Deutsche Bank AG was found dead of an apparent hanging suicide in his home in central London on Jan. 26, 2014. Police are not treating the death as suspicious.
3. Gabriel Magee: The 39-year-old J.P. Morgan tech executive killed himself in London on Jan. 28, 2014, by jumping off of J.P. Morgan European headquarters. Police ruled his death as “non-suspicious.”
4. Mike Dueker: The 50-year-old chief economist Russell Investments was found dead Jan. 30, 2014, near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington. Police said it appeared he jumped a four-foot fence and fell down the 40-50 foot embankment. Law enforcement officials said it appeared to be a suicide. Friends told police that he had been having problems at work before he went missing.
5. Ryan Henry Crane: The 37-year-old J.P. Morgan executive director died Feb. 3, 2014, of an apparent suicide. Police have not yet announced the cause of death. Instead, they said they’ll know more when a toxicology report comes out. That report won’t be ready for a couple more weeks. He worked in a unit that dealt in trading blocks of stocks.
6. Richard Talley: This is easily the strangest entry on this list. The 56-year-old founder of American Title Services in Centennial, Colo., was found dead Feb. 4, 2014, after he apparently shot himself seven or eight times with a nail gun. His company was under investigation by the Colorado Division of Insurance.
7. Dennis Li Junjie: The 33-year-old banker jumped to his death from the J.P. Morgan headquarters in Hong Kong on Feb. 18, 2014. The junior employee’s death is being treated as a suicide, police said. He jumped after attempts to talk him down failed.
8. James Stuart Jr: The 70-year-old former National Bank of Commerce CEO was found dead on Feb. 19, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. His family has not yet commented on his cause of death. The Lincoln, Neb., native was known in his community as a “very successful” banker.
Questions about what these deaths could mean and theories about whether they’re connected have popped up all over Internet for the past three months, resurfacing this week with the death of a financial professional in Manhattan, N.Y.
Edmund Reilly, 47, a trader at Midtown’s Vertical Group, threw himself in front of a speeding Long Island Rail Road commuter train at around 6:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, the New York Post reported.
He was declared dead when authorities arrived.
A LIRR spokesman confirmed the trader’s identity, adding that the investigation into the apparent suicide is ongoing. Passengers on the train told local law enforcement officials they saw a man standing by the tracks as the train arrived and saw him jump.
“Eddie was a great guy,” a managing director at Vertical told The Post in an email. “We are very upset and he will be deeply missed.”
Reilly, a recent divorcee and father of three children, recently purchased a house near his ex-wife. A family friend told the Post that they saw him as recently as Sunday and remarked that Reilly “didn’t look good.”
The New York City trader’s apparent suicide marks at least the ninth financial services sector-related death this year, supposedly “confirming” for some the idea of there being a connection between these tragedies.
But given the intense nature of the financial services sector and the fact that it from time to time experiences sudden increases in suicides (i.e. the Great Depression and the Great Recession), the recent deaths may not be as alarming (or mysterious) as some have suggested.
Consider, for example, the fact that finance workers are 1.51 times more likely to commit suicide than average, according to a Business Insider report based on data from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Further, during the period of 1999, 2003 to 2004 and 2007, there were 329 suicides among “financial specialists,” the second worst rate of any profession tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the worst being “engineers and scientists” with 502 suicides).
The specific years tracked reflect the years for which funding was provided to study suicide trends. It’s also the most up-to-date data available.
Now, it’s important to note that the data “is neither comprehensive for all industries and occupations, nor a census of all suicides or all deaths,” a CDC spokeswoman told TheBlaze in an email.
Also, she explained, the “data retrieved from death certificates does not speak to whether the death suicide was work-related – it does not link occupation to suicide, only that the people who committed suicide happened to have a certain occupation.”
“Yet, it is our best source of information for initiating such inquiries,” she said, adding that the data gives us a starting point to start tracing a trend.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that the financial services and insurance sectors employed approximately 5.87 million people in 2012, according to data from the U.S. government.
And that’s just in America. In other words: It’s a massive industry.
This could mean that nine suicides are likely a statistical probability and nothing more.
Further, many of the people who have pointed to these “banker suicide” stories and suggested that they are somehow connected have conflated industry roles.
Yes, these suicides all have something in common: The financial services sector. But the dead are not all “bankers.” The suicides include members from every corner of the industry. Some are traders, some are economist, some are analysts and some bankers.
Former J.P. Morgan employees Magee and Dennis Li, for example, aren’t bankers. The former was responsible for overseeing technology for fixed-income securities while the latter worked as an associate in the billing department.
The suicides include members from very different lines of work in a very large industry.
Simply put, it’s more likely that these deaths, which are spread out all across the globe, are totally unconnected. Indeed, it’s more likely these deaths are the tragic product of an unforgiving and oftentimes brutal industry than the product of a conspiracy.
“You would expect that when people work these long hours,” Alexandra Michel, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, told CNN Money when referring to two suicides at J.P. Morgan, a company that employs approximately 260,000 people. “You would think that it would happen much more often.”
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