Wall Street banker dead at 35 wanted new job over grueling 100-hour work weeks: report

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The 35-year-old Bank of America investment banker who died of a blood clot earlier this month was looking for a new job at a different company due to the stress of working more than 100 hours a week, according to a report.

Leo Lukenas III, a former enlisted soldier turned junior banker who worked out of Bank of America’s offices in Midtown Manhattan, contacted an executive recruiter about a new job before he died on May 2 of what the medical examiners called an acute coronary artery thrombus, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Douglas Walters, a managing partner at GrayFox Recruitment, told Reuters that Lukenas informed him in mid-March that he wanted to leave Bank of America because of the grueling hours.

Leo Lukenas III, 35, died on May 2 after suffering a blood clot while working as a junior banker for Bank of America. Leo Lukenas/linkedin

GrayFox Recruitment is a firm that specializes in placing people in financial industry jobs such as investment banking and private equity.

Walters told Reuters that Lukenas, who left behind a wife and two small children, did not raise any health issues in their discussions about career options.

The former Green Beret told Walters he thrived in a competitive culture and “would never say no” to assignments, Walters recalled.

But Lukenas also asked Walters whether it was normal to put in 110 hours of work a week.

Walters said he told Lukenas that consistently putting in such long hours was unusual even by Wall Street standards.

“He made a comment saying like, ‘hey, I’ll trade hours of sleep for a 10% (pay) cut,’” Walters said.

Lukenas said he had too little time to spend with his family, Walters added.

Lukenas is surived by his wife and two young children who lived in Brooklyn at the time of his death. Les Lukenas/linkedin

Walters said he worked with Lukenas to prepare an application for an associate position at a “boutique” investment bank in New York, which Walters declined to name.

“I know (the bank) would have called him forward, and he and I had been going back and forth on that,” Walters said.

The Post has sought comment from Bank of America.

Lukenas’ death ignited a fierce backlash on social media, particularly among Wall Street workers who say a toxic culture that forces employees to log exceedingly long hours remains pervasive.

Lukenas’ boss, Gary Howe, who works as co-head of Bank of America’s financial institutions group, deactivated his LinkedIn page after he was inundated with angry messages from purported bank staffers.

Bank of America employees have taken to social media platforms including Wall Street Oasis where they have discussed a possible walkout as part of an effort to bargain for better working conditions.

So far, workers have remained at their desks — in part because they fear retribution for raising concerns about the toxic culture, sources told The Post last week.

A Bank of America spokesperson told The Post last week that the company does not plan to take disciplinary action against Howe.

There are also no plans to investigate complaints that its junior bankers are forced to put in 100-hour weeks.

Lukenas was a US Army Green Beret before he started his career in investment banking last year. Les Lukenas/linkedin

“We are very saddened by the loss of our teammate. We continue to focus on doing whatever we can to support the family and our team especially those who worked closely with him,” the spokesperson told The Post.

Howe did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

A Bank of America spokesperson declined to comment to Reuters when asked about Walters’ conversations with Lukenas and about his long working hours or his job search.

Lukenas’ wife and brother did not respond to phone calls, text messages and emails seeking comment, according to Reuters.

51 Vets, a nonprofit for veterans that is helping to organize donations for Lukenas’ family, declined to comment.

Lukenas was reportedly looking for another job due to the grueling, 100-hour weeks that he was forced to put in at Bank of America. leolukenasiii/LinkedIn

Lukenas, a resident of Brooklyn, was a Green Beret for more than a decade before he was hired as a full-time employee by Bank of America last July, according to his LinkedIn page.

Prior to his death, he had been working on a $2 billion merger that was completed earlier this month.

Lukenas posted news about the deal between UMB Financial and Heartland Financial on LinkedIn days before his death.

He was a member of 51 Vets, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting transitioning and transitioned veterans from elite military communities with leading businesses, according to its website.

“51 Vets completely changed the trajectory of my post military career. Outstanding organization with an incredible mission,” Lukenas had recently posted on LinkedIn.

A fundraiser for his family, launched by 51 Vets, has already raised $258,962 as of early Thursday afternoon, including $10,000 from hedge fund titan Bill Ackman.

“This was an organic campaign organized by our members,” 51 Vets founder Jordan Selleck told The Post.

Lukenas’ death has reportedly prompted Bank of America employees to discuss a walkout. AP

“This speaks to the pain in the veteran community and Leo’s reputation in the community.”

“On May 2nd, 2024, 51 Vets lost a father, husband, son, Green Beret and member,” 51 Vets says on its site.

“Leo left behind a wife, and two young children. Leo spent over a decade in Army Special Operations, deploying multiple times with 1st Special Forces Group. He was dedicated to everything he did, never settling for good enough. He always set the example and held himself to the highest standards, prioritizing the team and mission success over himself.”

Wall Street has grappled for years with overwork among junior staff. Some firms have adopted measures such as increasing pay, holding workshops and forbidding work on Saturdays or periodic weekends.

Bank of America is among the banks that do not permit junior bankers to work Saturdays unless an exception is sought, according to current and former employees.

The bank reviewed its working culture in 2013 in the wake of an intern in London dying of epilepsy after working through nights.

A coroner, who is an independent judicial officer, found the intern, Moritz Erhardt, died of natural causes.

Additional Reporting by Lydia Moynihan and Josh Kosman