Bank intern died from epileptic seizure, inquest told

Moritz Erhardt died of an epileptic fit after working ‘exceptional’ hours at investment bank

Inquest heard today  the German student was taking medication for epilepsy, but had not told anyone at the bank about his condition. Photograph: Reuters

Inquest heard today the German student was taking medication for epilepsy, but had not told anyone at the bank about his condition. Photograph: Reuters

 

A 21-year-old intern died of an epileptic fit that may have been triggered by fatigue after working “exceptional” hours at a top investment bank, an inquest has heard.

Moritz Erhardt was a week from completing a coveted placement at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s London offices, and was due to be offered a job at the bank, when his body was found in the shower at his temporary accommodation in August.

An inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court in east London today heard that the German student was taking medication for epilepsy, but had not told anyone at the bank about his condition.

Mr Erhardt’s death sparked calls to overhaul the culture of punishingly long hours in the City of London after it emerged he had worked through the night several times in the days leading up to his death, and prompted Bank of America Merrill Lynch to launch a review.

Recording a verdict of natural causes, coroner Mary Hassell said Mr Erhardt died after an epileptic seizure, despite regularly taking medication, which may have been brought on by fatigue.

She told the court: “Unfortunately, although many 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.”

She went on: “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.”

The inquest heard that Mr Erhardt had suffered from epilepsy since 2010 and was taking medication but had not told anyone at the bank. He never complained about his working hours or feeling unwell, and even on the day before he was found dead, appeared to be fine, the court heard.

Mr Erhardt’s father, Dr Hans-Georg Dieterle, described his son as sporty and “full of life”, but said from the start of 2010 he had suffered one to two epileptic fits a year, but was taking medication for the condition and it was not stopping him from living a normal life.

Dr Dieterle said his son came to London in June after getting an internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and spoke with his parents via email, telephone and Skype. Speaking through an interpreter, he said: “He was enthusiastic, he really enjoyed it. Both his work and his leisure time and being with friends.” He did not complain to his parents about his working hours, the court heard, but they noticed from the time his emails were sent - sometimes at 5am or 6am - that he had worked through the night.

“He never complained but especially my wife noticed in the last week that he just didn’t get enough sleep,” Dr Dieterle told the court. “It’s just from the times his emails were sent my wife noticed that he couldn’t have enough sleep and this might be a risk in terms of his epilepsy.”

Juergen Schroeder, Mr Erhardt’s development officer at Merrill Lynch, described him as “very motivated, very confident”, but also “very humble, very down-to-earth”. “Colleagues at the bank thought very highly of him and did enjoy working with him,” he said. He told the court he had never known Mr Erhardt to be unwell, and revealed that, in a questionnaire about health, Mr

Erhardt said he had no medical conditions and was not taking any medication. “Moritz was always full of energy, full of enthusiasm. He, I think, wanted to make the most out of his internship, he was very eager to learn,” Mr Schroeder said.

PA