Lydia Moynihan

Lydia Moynihan

Business

100-hour weeks and heart palpitations: Inside Wall Street’s brutal work culture

The tragic death of former Green Beret and Bank of America employee Leo Lukenas III has become a flashpoint of anger over allegedly unrealistic work expectations on Wall Street — partly because some bankers say Lukenas’ experience is so similar to their own.

While there is no evidence that job-related stress caused the blood clot that killed 35-year-old Lukenas on May 2, a recent Reuters report that he was talking with a recruiter to find a job with better hours has put a glaring spotlight on the 100-hour work weeks he was said to be juggling before his death.

Multiple Wall Street sources told The Post about scary health issues they claim are related to their high-stress occupation.

Leo Lukenas III, a 35-year-old former Green Beret, died on May 2 of acute coronary acute coronary artery thrombus. While there is no evidence that 100-hour work weeks caused his death, his death has put a spotlight on Wall Street’s demands of employees. Leo Lukenas/linkedin

“There have been incidents where analysts pass out in meetings due to lack of sleep/food, and other times where analysts are hospitalized due to panic attacks — and nobody steps in to check in on them,” a Bank of America employee alleged.

On Thursday, a second Bank of America employee died.

Adnan Deumic, a 25-year-old London-based trader,was playing in a “five-a-side” charity soccer tournament with other finance employees when he fell suddenly and was administered CPR, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

While the cause of death is unknown, the source told The Post that cardiac arrest is suspected. There is no known connection between Deumic’s work and his death.

While Deumic worked closer to 60 hours a week than 100, those hours were highly stressful. He was involved in trades worth as much as $1 billion some days despite his lack of experience, the person said.

Lew Lukenas, Leo’s brother posted on LinkedIn that he “was a remarkable individual whose kindness, strength, and spirit touched the lives of everyone he met.” Leo (above) leaves behind a wife and two children. Les Lukenas/linkedin

“He probably worked 11 to 12 hours a day and those hours were incredibly intense… he didn’t have time to get coffee,” the source said.

This isn’t the first time bankers have been angry about a colleague’s untimely death, but the current response has prompted more people to speak up, sources said.

Employees are finding vindication and camaraderie in popular financial chat boards on Reddit and WallStreetOasis.com. And popular Instagram accounts like Litquidity and Overheard on Wall Street, with more than a million followers between them, have given airtime to some of the most egregious problems.

One Wall Street Oasis post from an anonymous banker, highlighting a list of demands for employees’ welfare, recently generated more than 450 comments.

On Thursday, Adnan Deumic, a credit portfolio and algorithmic trader at Bank of America’s London office, collapsed of a reported suspected cardiac arrest while playing soccer at an industry event and failed to respond to medical treatment. Adnan Deumic/Facebook

The anonymous banker behind Overheard on Wall Street has spoken with multiple Bank of America employees and shared some of their comments with The Post.

“Bank of America has a system called ‘banker diary,’ where junior bankers input their weekly hours. It is supposed to safeguard us from overworking by flagging anyone who inputs more than 80 hours a week,” one said. “I cannot actually even start to count the number of times I was asked by [managing directors and directors] to lie on my banker diary so that it wouldn’t get flagged.”

“Our policy is clear and we expect employees to accurately record their hours,” Bank of America said in a statement.

While Wall Street culture varies by firm and department, investment banking — the division in which Lukenas worked — is notoriously the most grueling. It’s also the most lucrative, where bankers only a year out of college can pull down $200,000 a year, but regularly clock 100-hour work weeks.

According to a source, Deumic’s job was stressful and involved as much as a billion dollars running through his book some days. Adnan Deumic/Facebook

It’s a top-down problem, sources — most of whom asked for anonymity because they feared repercussions for speaking out — said.

“VPs do not respect junior people’s time,” a managing director sympathetic to younger bankers told The Post. “They will proactively give someone a piece of work at 6 p.m. on a Friday that could have given it to them on Tuesday, but [managers] were distracted.”

Mark Moran now runs an investor relations firm Equity Animal, but spent four years working on mergers and acquisitions at Lazard and Centerview Partners.

“You typically don’t have to get to the office until 10 a.m. and you often don’t get any work assigned until the afternoon,” he said of many junior employees at large banks “But around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., you often get an assignment and have to stay until 2 p.m. finishing it.”

Wall Street workers said that, when profits are high and there is a talent shortage, banks promise better hours. But as soon as profits dip, banks are pressured to cut costs, reduce headcount and force more work on fewer employees. AP

“These CEOs love talking about efficiency and productivity but they literally waste their most important asset: People’s time,” one source who left Wall Street after six years told The Post.

Most junior employees, typically referred to as associates, spend just two years on the bottom rung before leaving a firm or getting promoted.

Lukenas, who lived in Brooklyn, had been a Green Beret for more than a decade — from 2013 until he joined the bank as an associate last July — according to his LinkedIn page. He leaves behind a wife and two young children. 

His death came three days after working around 100 hours a week for several weeks in a row, completing a $2 billion merger, according to Reuters.

Those two associate years can reportedly be hell, with employees complaining they have no control over their schedules.

Litquidity, a popular Instagram account that covers Wall Street culture, airs younger employees’ grievances. litquidity/Instagram

According to a survey conducted by Overheard on Wall Street, junior bankers average just 5 hours of sleep a night.

One source who left investment banking for private equity told The Post that, at her old job, she was so exhausted that she had to rest her eyes in a bathroom stall every few hours just to function.

Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, physical illness and, in some cases, use of drugs like cocaine to stay awake, bankers said.

Hank Medina, who chronicles Wall Street culture on the Instagram account Litquidity, told The Post how, after months of chest pain and heart palpitations when he worked at Jefferies Bank, he finally worked up the courage to ask his manager for time off to see a doctor.

The pain was diagnosed as being caused by “incredibly high stress and a lack of sleep,” Medina said.

At Bank of America, 22 year-old bankers can pull down $200,000 a year out of college but will regularly clock 100 hour work weeks, according to sources. Robert Miller

“The week the doctor had me wear a heart monitor, the analyst I was working with told me he also had one… [chest pain] happens a lot,” Medina said. “The adrenaline from the job was unsustainable.” 

Another Bank of America source told Overheard on Wall Street: “I have led deal calls with clients from a hospital bed before — apologizing for the sound of my heart rate monitor in the background. I returned to work after sick leave only to be made to feel guilty for taking time off for my health, when the job is the primary cause for my health issues.”

Over the years, a handful of suicides and deaths have resulted in some reforms. In 2013, after a Bank of America intern in London died of a seizure after working until 6 a.m. for three consecutive days, Goldman Sachs implemented the so-called “Saturday rule” — requiring employees be out of the office and not working between 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Sunday. 

Other firms like JPMorgan and Citi reportedly adopted similar rules but sources told The Post those guidelines are now frequently ignored at some firms.

Banks like Goldman Sachs have implemented a “Saturday rule” that requires employees be out of the office and not working between 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Sunday. But it isn’t always observed, sources told The Post. REUTERS

Wall Street firms including D.E. Shaw, BlackRock and Goldman Sachs offer egg-freezing as a benefit for female employees as a benefit — a process that would free them up to work intensely before starting a family.

But, sources say, much of the change is cyclical. When profits are high and there is a talent shortage, banks assuage junior employees by promising to limit meetings or giving them Peloton bikes, as Jefferies has.

But as soon as profits dip, firms are pressured to cut costs, reduce headcount and force more work on fewer employees — starting the cycle again.

And some older bankers just aren’t sympathetic.

Wall Street firms including D.E. Shaw, BlackRock, and Goldman Sachs (above) offer to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs, freeing them up to work intensely before starting a family. Paul Martinka

“What happened to [Lukenas] was absolutely tragic, but for junior bankers to leverage his untimely death with the aim of reducing the heavy and intense workload required to be a successful investment banker is inappropriate,” one banker who spent two decades on Wall Street told The Post. “Elon Musk works more than 100 hours a week and he hasn’t dropped dead.”

Another banker added: “If you don’t want to do the job, there are three junior people behind you who will take your seat.”

But one former Goldman employee told The Post there’s no excuse for the exhausting workload.

“While not working with one’s hands like in a factory, working 100-hour work weeks as a junior financial analyst has similar features to serious labor — in being physically demanding and taxing — that are under appreciated,” Jon Hartley, who is now an economics PhD Candidate studying labor and financial economics at Stanford, told The Post. “There’s an overall culture that needs to change which requires both employers and employees to put health and well-being first, above incremental low-productivity hours.”

“I don’t get it because it wouldn’t take that much to be a leader and make real change,” another longtime Wall Streeter told The Post. “It’s such an archaic culture.”