Moritz Erhardt, the 21-year old Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern who fatally collapsed after working for 72 hours straight, died as a result of an epileptic fit that may have been triggered by stress and fatigue, a coroner's court in London heard today.
However, the coroner says he was also told by a pathologist that while fatigue could have been a trigger, there was no proof of this, and it was possible the seizure was something that “just happened.”
The coroner recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. According to UK paper The Mirror, the coroner said, "Unfortunately, although many people live with epilepsy and go on to live to old age, sometimes it still causes death very suddenly in this way and sometimes that happens even with a person as young and as fit as Moritz was…One of the triggers for epilepsy is exhaustion and it may be that because Moritz had been working so hard his fatigue was a trigger for the seizure that killed him.
"But that's only a possibility and I don't want his family to go away with the thought that it was something that Moritz did that causes his death…He was a young man living life to the full and he was clearly enjoying his time in London and, whilst it's possible that fatigue brought about the fatal seizure, it is also possible that it just happened. And it is something that does just happen."
Bob Elfring, co-head of corporate and investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said: "We are used to working with people who are ambitious and want to over-perform," according to a report in The Guardian, and said that while “a very serious effort”was being made to review working hours, he admitted there was not a current system for monitoring working hours at the bank.
The young German had been diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010 and was on medication to manage the condition.
According to tweets sent from inside the courtroom today by Ben Wright, city correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, Erhardt did not tell BAML that he had epilepsy or was on medication for it.
Erhardt, who beat off 1500 other candidates to secure one of two summer internships and, unbeknownst to him was due to be offered a full time job at the bank, had been nearing the end of a seven-week placement when he collapsed and died in the shower after a 72-hour stretch on the ‘magic roundabout’ as it is known in banking circles, where workers take a taxi back from the office in the early hours of the morning, shower, change and return to their desks.
Moritz died on Thursday 15 August; after he failed to show up at work, a fellow intern raised the alarm. His body was discovered at around 8:30pm in the shower, with the water still running.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch swiftly announced a review into its working practices, issuing a statement shortly after Erhardt’s death, saying, "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," according to a report in The Guardian at the time. A bank spokesman said the panel would take in "all aspects of working practices with a particular focus on our junior population”.
In 2013, Erhardt studied at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While studying there, according to a report in the German Der Spiegel, he wrote a self-appraisal which contained the tragically prophetic words, "I had become highly competitive and ambitious from early on…Sometimes, I had a tendency to be overambitious, which resulted in severe injuries."