A 21-year-old Bank of America intern praised as "highly diligent" died Thursday, and there was immediate speculation that he died of overwork. And although the official cause of death hasn't been determined yet, there was much online speculation that his death was somehow related to having pulled three all-nighters in a row.
Moritz Erhardt was found dead at his apartment in east London, a bank spokesperson told Bloomberg. Erhardt had just one week left of his seven-week investment-banking internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Until three months ago, he had been an exchange student at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. He attended WHU -- Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany.
In a statement, Bank of America said, "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Moritz Erhardt's death. He was popular amongst his peers and was a highly diligent intern at our company with a promising future." [UPDATE 1:41 pm: A bank spokesman told AOL Jobs that the bank would not make any comment "about his work patterns. We're trying to focus on what we can do for his family and the other interns and anyone else affected by this."
According to unconfirmed reports, Erhardt suffered from epilepsy and may have died from a seizure. But investment bankers are infamous for working long, grueling hours, and speculation immediately has focused on the role overwork may have played in his death.
A commenter on wallstreetoasis.com claimed to have heard from colleagues that Erhardt -- "one of the three best interns" in the London investment banking group --had pulled three consecutive all-nighters. A roommate reportedly found him dead in the shower. Another commenter claimed that the bank's HR department sent an email "saying something along the lines of 'don't work your interns too hard for the final weeks." (Bank of America's spokesman, however, said he hadn't heard that such an email was sent.)
Overwork has been an issue across industries, and cultures, however. Earlier this year, when a 24-year-old Ogilvy & Mather employee in Beijiing, collapsed at his desk and subsequently died of cardiac arrest, local news outlets immediately proclaimed Li Yuan died of overwork. Chinese reports claimed 600,000 workers die from "work exhaustion" each year. But Ogilvy & Mather noted that Li Yuan hadn't worked overtime in the month prior to his death, and he'd taken a week's sick leave prior to returning to work.
According to his online bio at Seelio.com, the social networking site, Moritz Erhardt had previously worked at KPMG Consulting, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG's (DBK) corporate finance division. The Independent said BofA interns are paid around 2,700 pounds a month -- or $4,228 US dollars.