Jack Kelly: It's raining bankers

Perhaps they know of big economic trouble ahead

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Investment banker Kenneth Bellando, 28, was found dead March 12 on the sidewalk in front of his apartment building on Manhattan’s East side. Police think he jumped from the roof of the six-story building.

A former investment bank analyst at JP Morgan, Mr. Bellando had been working at Levy Capital since January. His brother, John, is a chief investment officer at JP Morgan Chase.

Mr. Bellando is the 11th financial professional — the fourth with ties to JP Morgan — to die in the last two months:

• Edmund Reilly, 47, a trader with Vertical Group, threw himself in front of a Long Island Railroad train March 11.

• Autumn Radtke, 28, CEO of First Meta, a firm which trades in Bitcoin and other Internet currencies, was found dead on the sidewalk outside her apartment building in Singapore Feb. 26. Police suspect she jumped from the building’s roof.

• Former National Bank of Commerce CEO James Stuart Jr., 70, was found dead in his winter home in Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb. 19. His death was apparently a suicide, Scottsdale police said.

• Li Jun Jie, 33, a foreign exchange trader, jumped to his death from the roof of JP Morgan’s headquarters in Hong Kong Feb. 18.

• Richard Talley, 57, president of American Title Services, was found dead in the garage of his home in suburban Denver Feb. 7. Police ruled his death a suicide.

• Ryan Crane, 37, an equities trader at JP Morgan, was found dead in his home in Stamford, Conn., Feb. 3. No cause of death has been given, pending a toxicology report.

• Mike Dueker, 50, chief economist at Russell Investments, was found dead Jan. 31 at the side of the highway leading to the Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington State. Police think he jumped over a 4-foot fence, then fell 40 or 50 feet down an embankment. His death has been ruled a suicide.

• JP Morgan Vice President Gabriel Magee, 39, was found dead on the ninth-floor rooftop of a building adjacent to JP Morgan’s European headquarters in London Jan. 28. Police assume he jumped from the roof of the headquarters building, which has 33 floors.

• William Broeksmit, 58, a recently retired executive for Deutsche Bank AG, was found hanged at his home in London Jan. 26.

• Tim Dickenson, communications director in Britain for Swiss Re AG, was found dead in London earlier that week. The circumstances of his death have not been disclosed.

After the stock market crashed in 1929, bankers “had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of,” Will Rogers said. That was hyperbole, of course.

“The number of bankers committing suicide directly after the crash is thought to have been only around 20, with another 100 people connected to the financial industry dying at their own hand within the year,” said the International Business Times in a story last September about the suicide of Pierre Wauthier, 53, chief financial officer for the Zurich Insurance Group.

Falls account for 45 percent of recent banker suicides, only about 2 percent of all suicides.

The 1929 suicides came after the stock market crashed, not while it was going up. Why is it raining bankers now?

The rash of banker suicides could be coincidence. But some of the coincidences are remarkable.

Mr. Crane and Mr. Magee often worked on the same deals. Mr. Wauthier had worked at JP Morgan. His replacement as CFO will be an executive from Swiss Re AG, Mr. Dickenson’s employer. Mr. Wauthier left a typewritten note.

“Typically suicide notes are handwritten so that the individual leaves no doubt in the minds of his loved ones that the words are genuinely his own,” said Pam and Russ Martens of Wall Street on Parade.

Mr. Talley shot himself in the head and torso eight times with a nail gun, police said. That’s tough to do and must have hurt a lot. You’d think he’d have chosen a less painful way to end his life.

Mr. Magee’s suicide must have been spur of the moment, because he had just told his girlfriend he’d be home soon. Access to the rooftop from which he jumped normally is restricted to security and maintenance personnel.

When he jumped down that embankment, how could Mr. Dueker have been certain he wouldn’t just cripple himself?

Suicide is a desperate act by people who think they’ve no other way out. The bankers probably were haunted by demons unique to themselves. But could they have been filled with despair by something they knew was about to happen in the world economy?

If some of the “suicides” weren’t, did they know something powerful people don’t want us to know?

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).

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