Why Wall Street Is Transfixed by a BofA Banker’s Untimely Death

Leo Lukenas III, a former Army soldier turned investment banker, passed away Thursday, leaving behind a wife and two children. Lukenas, a former Green Beret and member of the Army’s Special Forces, died of “acute coronary artery thrombus,” which causes blood to clot in the heart, Reuters confirmed with the New York Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. He left military service and joined BofA last year to “pursue new opportunities for his family,” according to an online fundraiser.

Although the coroner’s report did not establish a connection between his death and work, it has nonetheless ignited chatter among members of the investment-banking community about the industry’s onerous demands for junior bankers working on live deals — including at Bank of America.

Inside BofA, the death has prompted a swift, concerned reaction and a raft of questions, particularly among the junior ranks, according to current and former investment bankers who spoke to Business Insider.

“I think what we all would want is some acknowledgement about what happened, and at least not completely dismiss the fact that it could have been work-related,” said one junior banker at BofA, insisting on the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak with reporters about Lukenas’ death. “And to at least just start having those conversations as to how they can make junior bankers work life much better because it’s been long overdue. And I believe that, if anything, it’s gotten worse.”

At BofA, 100-plus hour weeks logged by junior bankers aren’t unusual, said current and former employees, who questioned whether the firm’s system for flagging excessive amounts of work was actually effective.

“It’s hard as a junior to push back,” said a former investment-banking analyst who departed the firm last year. “You don’t have the ability as an associate or analyst to tell your MD, ‘Hey, I’m tired. Can we pick this up tomorrow?'”

A representative for BofA declined to comment on those workers’ specific claims. In an emailed statement on Tuesday, the spokesperson said: “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.”

Lukenas recently worked on a $2 billion deal

Investment banking is a notoriously grueling profession, and there have been numerous complaints from young bankers about burnout and pressure over the years. In 2021, a group of investment-banking analysts at Goldman Sachs kicked off a flurry of pay raises after a report they had prepared for their bosses about working long hours leaked online. In 2013, an intern at Bank of America in London reportedly died after working for three days straight.

Lukenas — who joined the bank last summer and was a member of its financial institutions group, which handles transactions for financial companies — had been part of a team working on UMB’s $2 billion all-stock acquisition of Heartland Financial USA, Inc., announced in late April. A spokesperson for UMB did not respond to a request for comment from BI on Tuesday about Lukenas’ death.

Within the firm, the FIG team where Lukenas sat had developed a reputation for being particularly demanding, the current banker said. This person also said that recent departures of junior bankers on teams, including the FIG and the industrials groups, left those who remain shouldering more of the work.

The current BofA banker said that investment-banking teams have been holding meetings this week in connection with Lukenas’ passing, including some in which midlevel bankers charged with handling junior team members’ workflows vowed to look into reducing hours and potentially increase opportunities to work from home. But some junior bankers felt dismayed by an apparent lack of written communication from bank leaders about the incident, this person added.

“There has been extensive outreach to our team since last Thursday,” the BofA spokesperson said.

Crushing exhaustion, heightened demands

The former BofA investment-banking analyst, who was not on Lukenas’ team, quit in 2023 after two years. In talking to BI, this person described one particularly strenuous period at the bank, which consisted of regular 100-hour workweeks with little support for burnout and exhaustion.

“It got to a point where I would wake up and immediately feel like I needed to throw up,” the person told BI. “My mental health was really bad. I felt very unsupported by my team.”

While BofA has a system for flagging overwork — a tool known internally as the “banker’s diary” — both the current and former bankers agreed that the tool could sometimes fail. It could encourage some senior bankers to pile more work onto juniors’ plates if they found openings in their schedules or thought they might not be busy enough — and didn’t always prevent juniors from…

Read More: Why Wall Street Is Transfixed by a BofA Banker’s Untimely Death