Furore over 'slavery in the City' death

Banking intern had battled through three consecutive 21-hour shifts before collapse

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 8:25am

Moritz Erhardt was an ambitious 21-year-old, working hard to impress his bosses and get a toehold in the finance industry as he toiled as an intern at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London.

According to his colleagues quoted in British reports, the German student's last days at work comprised three consecutive 21-hour shifts, all-nighters that ended at 6am before his workday began again at 9am.

On day four, Erhardt was dead. Erhardt, who was on a seven-week pre-graduate programme in London, died a week ago, said Bank of America spokesman John McIvor. The death was being treated as non-suspicious, said a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police in London.

"He was popular amongst his peers and was a highly diligent intern at our company with a promising future," Bank of America said.

Erhardt was found unconscious at Claredale House, a student lodge in east London. He was pronounced dead at the scene after being treated by medics, said the police spokesman.

Erhardt's death has raised concerns about intern workloads in the City, according to The Independent newspaper.

In a story headlined "Slavery in the City", the newspaper quoted another banking intern living at Claredale House who said that the long hours were expected.

"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," the intern reportedly said.

"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."

Some UK reports said Erhardt may have had an epileptic fit.

Erhardt was an exchange student at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business and attended WHU- Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany, according to a page on social network site seelio.com

"We are all deeply shocked and saddened," said Peter Augustin, a spokesman for the German business school.