In Japan, there is a word for this tragic phenomenon of the modern age: karōshi. It means, “death by overwork.” A 21-year-old intern at a major investment bank in London might have fallen victim to karōshi after his body was found in the shower last Thursday.
Moritz Erhardt (pictured) who was from Germany and studied at the University of Michigan, was no stranger to grueling internships in the financial world and the extreme working hours they sometimes require.
According to reports, Erhardt had pulled three consecutive all-nighters at the London office of Merrill Lynch, the investment banking arm of Bank of America, when a roommate found him dead in his apartment.
It has also been reported that Erhardt suffered from epilepsy. It is not known whether that condition, the long hours or any combination of the two contributed to his death. An official inquest into the intern’s death is scheduled.
A former investment banker, who would not be named, told London’s Independent newspaper that interns, who are typically paid a pro-rata salary equivalent to £45,000 ($70,000) per year for a summer stint, “can regularly clock up to 100 or even 110 hours a week.” But the banker added that, “people are fully aware that banking is hard work and the company constantly reminds you to manage upwards in order to not overheat.”
"I'm not going to comment on what hours people choose to spend in the office voluntarily," said John McIvor, a spokesman for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "But if you think about it logically, what we're trying to do is something that happens across all the big firms. We're looking to get to know them better."
One former intern described a practice known as the “Magic Roundabout” in which an intern pulls an all-nighter, takes a taxi home, then pays the driver to wait while the intern showers. The intern then gets back in the waiting taxi and heads straight back to work.
SOURCES: The Independent, Daily Mail, CNBC