Three bankers in New York, London and Siena, Italy, died within 17 months of each other in 2013-14 in what authorities deemed a series of unrelated suicides. But in each case, the victim had a connection to a burgeoning global banking scandal, leaving more questions than answers as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
The March 6, 2013, death of David Rossi — a 51-year-old communications director at Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank — came as the institution teetered on the brink of collapse.
Rossi was found dead in an alleyway beneath his third-floor office window in the 14th-century palazzo that served as the bank’s headquarters.
A devastating security video shows Rossi landing on the pavement on his back, facing the building — an odd position more likely to occur when a body is pushed from a window.
The footage shows the three-story fall didn’t kill Rossi instantly. For almost 20 minutes, the banker lay on the dimly lit cobblestones, occasionally moving an arm and leg.
As he lay dying, two murky figures appear. Two men appear and one walks over to gaze at the banker. He offers no aid or comfort and doesn’t call for help before turning around and calmly walking out of the alley.
About an hour later, a co-worker discovered Rossi’s body. The arms were bruised and he sustained a head wound that, according to the local medical examiner’s report, suggested there may have been a struggle prior to his fall.
But the death was ruled a suicide, to the disbelief of Rossi’s widow, Antonella Tognazzi. She was quoted in the Italian press as saying her husband “knew too much.” She staged public demonstrations and hired a lawyer to investigate her husband’s death.
Among the evidence Tognazzi pointed to was the alleged suicide note, in which Rossi referred to her as Toni. He never called her Toni, she said.
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The same year as Rossi’s death, European and US regulators began to probe what would become known as the Libor scandal, in which London bankers conspired to rig the London Interbank Offered Rate — an overnight interest rate that determines the interest banks charged on mortgages and auto and personal loans across the globe. It also determines the rate that banks like Monte Paschi pay for loans like the one it used to finance the purchase of Banca Antonveneta. The scandal would cost international banks — most notably Deutsche — nearly $20 billion in fines.
Additionally, Monte Paschi got involved in risky derivatives that took heavy losses during the financial crisis of 2008. The esteemed bank, founded 20 years before Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, was being investigated at the time of Rossi’s death for its handling of billions in these risky derivative bets involving Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch.
In October 2014, Mussari and two other Monte Paschi executives were convicted by Italian authorities for obstructing regulators and misleading investigators on the bailed-out Italian bank’s finances in the wake of the acquisition of Banca Antonveneta. In January of this year, three executives from Deutsche Bank were also implicated civilly, including Michele Faissola, the wealth management director of the German bank — charged by Italian authorities with colluding with the troubled Monte Paschi in falsifying accounts, manipulating the market and obstructing justice. Faissola denies these charges.
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While at least 40 bankers have killed themselves in the 17-month period starting in March 2013 in the wake of the global banking scandal, the circumstances of Rossi’s death — and two others — stand out as particularly mysterious.
In January 2014, the body of William Broeksmit, 58, a high-ranking Deutsche Bank executive, was found hanging in his London flat from a dog leash tied to the top of a door.
Financial papers were strewn about, and on a dog bed near the body were a number of notes to family and friends. One was addressed to Deutsche Bank CEO Anshu Jain, with an apology. But that note — never publicly revealed until now — offered no clue as to the reason he was sorry.
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Two years ago, the mystery of the banker suicides hit New York City. Calogero “Charles” Gambino, 41, a married father of two, was Deutsche’s in-house lawyer for 11 years at the bank’s downtown headquarters. He was working on defending the bank against Libor charges and other regulatory probes.
On Oct. 20, 2014, Gambino’s body was found by his wife, Maria, hanging from an upstairs balcony of his Brooklyn home, a neatly kept white brick townhouse in Bay Ridge with ornamental stone fretwork at the roofline. The rope was snaked through the banister and tied off on the newel post on the first floor.
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Mostly it was Gambino’s colleague, outside counsel Mark Stein of Simpson Thatcher, who had the direct contact. Stein, who declined to comment, advised Broeksmit and Faissola in 2012 and 2013 on the Libor probes. Deutsche Bank ultimately reached a settlement with the Department of Justice, paying $12 billion in fines, without any admission of liability.
Gambino’s death was ruled a suicide. In his case and in the cases of both Rossi and Broeksmit, probers never looked for, nor discovered, common threads.
But all three men worked for, or did business with, Deutsche Bank. Moreover, it appears that one or more of the scandals that enveloped Deutsche Bank and/or Monte Paschi since the financial crisis had crossed each of their desks.
It remains to be seen if the circumstances leading to Gambino’s and Broeksmit’s deaths will ever be reconsidered. But questions are being asked and answered in Rossi’s case.
Late last year, Italian authorities exhumed his body and reopened their investigation. A ruling on whether Rossi killed himself or was murdered is expected later this month.
Why are so many bankers committing suicide?
By Michael Gray
New York Post
June 12, 2016 | 6:00am