Banker deaths not part of obvious trend

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Terribly tragic, but recent deaths of bank employees are not part of an obvious trend.

Another New York-area JPMorgan Chase employee is dead in an apparent murder-suicide, but experts cautioned against calling it a trend.

The bodies of Michael and Iran Pars Tabacchi - newlywed parents of a young boy - were discovered Friday in Closter, New Jersey. Iran, the wife, was stabbed once and strangled. The husband, Michael, died of a self-inflicted knife wound, according to Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli. The couple's toddler was not harmed.

Michael, 27, was a back-office employee in the bank's asset custody unit, according to his LinkedIn profile. He worked for JPMorgan since 2009.

"I am very good and creative with data manipulation and reporting and can leverage my business knowledge to provide senior managers what is needed before asked to do so," his profile states.

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The Tabacchi suicide isn't the only one by a JPMorgan employee recently, as NJ.com noted recently. Another murder-suicide occurred in nearby Jefferson Township in July, when police said Julian Knott shot his wife Alita before killing himself. In February 2014, the New York Post noted three other mysterious deaths of JPMorgan bankers over just three weeks.

But experts cautioned that the deaths weren't part of an obvious trend.

"A few similar tragedies doesn't necessarily make them statistically significant for JPMorgan. Ugly events get played up in the media partially because the public likes to hate on bankers," said Denise Shull, a psychological consultant to investment professionals at The ReThink Group in New York.

"Still, that disdain for those who work on Wall Street can't help people suffering from other psychological stressors," Shull added. "It's highly unlikely to be the cause but being a societal target could surely contribute to the feelings of hopelessness that in turn push people over the mental edge."

A spokesman for JPMorgan declined to comment. The bank has 260,000 employees worldwide, according to its website.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on "sales representatives for financial and business services" cited by Fortune - the closest Wall Street grouping available and broader than the title would indicate-showed that members of the group are 39 percent more likely to kill themselves than the workforce as a whole. That compares with 54 percent for lawyers and 97 percent for physicians.

Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in 2010, according to a separate CDC report. There were 38,364 suicides in 2010 in the U.S., an average of 105 each day.

Alexandra Michel, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, said bank employees are much more likely to become depressed after four or five years of intense work. She also said back-office employees sometimes had an inferiority complex because their hard work did not earn the same power and prestige as front-office workers, such as investment bankers.

"In the back office you work at lot and you don't have status," Michel said. "We know from research that a lack of status induces helplessness and exacerbates stress."

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Michael Santoro, a professor of business ethics at Rutgers Business School, cautioned against drawing any conclusions from the latest suicide.

"We have no way of knowing what is behind this and what role if any his working at a bank had to do with what happened," Santoro said.

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