Culture of overwork isn’t new but the level is

Following the shocking death of a Bank of America intern who just collapsed after working continuously for 72 hours, the rigorous culture of overwork adopted by the finance industry as well as other fields has finally come under public scrutiny.


Moritz Erhardt was a 21 year old intern at the Bank of America in London. Ambitious as he was, Moritz was reportedly known to put in several hours of work every day, even giving up his breaks and weekends for work. After finishing a 72 hour shift (three straight nights that stretched till 6.00 a.m.), Moritz headed home on August 15, only to collapse in the shower. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

The exact reason for Moritz’s death is unknown. But fellow interns at the Bank of America have pointed out that Moritz had almost finished his summer internship at Merrill Lynch, an investment banking unit of the Bank of America which is located in downtown London. Moritz’s fellow interns claim that it was the long hours and non-stop work that had killed him.

Several industry experts have pointed out that several companies in the finance sector associate internships with long working hours and all-nighters. Several interns in these companies have also claimed that working for 15 hours a day and working throughout the nights are quite common for them.

These are some of the very basic requisites you would need to have if you want a full time job in the same filed, industry experts say. And ambitious interns become easy targets for employers who download their workload to these low level employees. In most cases, the interns would have to do these extra jobs because they remain ignorant of their basic workers’ rights and responsibilities, or do not want to risk losing their internship (and a possible  job in the future) by not complying to the wishes of their employers.

Most exploitative employees use these facts to their advantage, and literally drain these interns to their physical and emotional limit, caring little for the latter’s health or wellbeing down the line. This ultimately results in what one can only call as ‘Slavery in the City’ wherein several low level employees would receive inhuman treatment from their employers.

The Bank of America has distanced itself from Moritz’s death, and has revealed that although it does not grind its interns, long hours of work were sometimes required to meet the demands of the workplace culture. This, according to the bank, would be the only way to filter out the best candidates for future jobs in the organization.

The only saving grace for the investment banking interims when compared to interims in other fields in this case is that the former can at least take back a salary of $6000 a month for 100 hours of work each week. Many of these interims also get hired immediately after internship, easily earning $80,000 or more annually. Sadly, the same cannot be said for others who still remain enslaved under their employers, with no way to get what they deserve in terms of pay or educational value.

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