The Undoing of Deutsche Bank: Part Three

The three-part article on Deutsche Bank is concluded with this blog.

By Landon Thomas Jr. for The New York Times, Jan. 1, 2017

For many senior bankers, eye-watering losses and regulatory crackdowns are part of the cold calculation of a Wall Street career that can, quite suddenly, veer from triumph to ignominy.

Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jain were such men — exceedingly confident risk takers with thick public skins. Bill Broeksmit, a behind-the-scenes technician with an acute sense of the rights and wrongs in finance, was not.

William S. Broeksmit

William S. Broeksmit

And that is why his sad end carries a larger resonance as the business model that his two close colleagues put in place ultimately failed the institution and the many who had devoted their lives to it. He was, in many ways, the connective tissue linking Mr. Mitchell to his protégé Mr. Jain in their management of the bank.

Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Broeksmit were close friends, working together for more than a decade at Merrill and bonding over a shared love of Maine, where they decamped each summer. After Mr. Mitchell’s death, Mr. Broeksmit would form a bond with Mr. Jain, offering advice to him, via official and unofficial channels, as to Deutsche’s fluctuating risk profile.

Within Deutsche, Mr. Broeksmit was seen to be Mr. Jain’s eyes and ears when it came to tracking various trading positions and risk exposures.

Mr. Broeksmit was always an ardent advocate for Mr. Jain. He was the Deutsche Bank executive who cited Mr. Jain’s salesmanship abilities as a formative contributor to the bank’s early success in the book that celebrated the unit’s 10-year anniversary.

Mr. Broeksmit had originally been persuaded by Mr. Mitchell to move to London with the first wave of Merrill Lynch defectors in 1995 and 1996. As the brains behind Mr. Mitchell’s ambition for Deutsche to become a leading derivatives bank, he was what financial hands call a plumber — an expert in the piping and flow of money, largely unknown beyond the trading floor.

Bookish, though not without a touch of the trader’s swagger, Mr. Broeksmit was also a man of loyalties, always quick to share the burdens of a friend in need. So when Mr. Jain asked him to take on a larger risk role at Deutsche in 2007, he said yes, even though he had been enjoying his more relaxed life as private consultant after stepping down as a full-time executive.

01db-deutschejp2-master675The London home where William Broeksmit, the brains behind Mr. Mitchell’s ambition for Deutsche to become a leading derivatives bank, killed himself in 2014. Credit Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

After a time, though, the drumbeat of investigations began to wear on him.

There was Deutsche’s role in the rate-rigging scandal, for which it paid $2.5 billion, the highest sum of the roughly $9 billion paid by major investment banks.

There was a $55 million fine Deutsche had to pay for misstating its derivatives positions. And finally, there were the withering criticisms by the New York Fed regarding Deutsche’s troubled American operations — where, at the behest of Mr. Jain, Mr. Broeksmit had become a member of the board.

The extent to which Deutsche’s financial woes played a role in Mr. Broeksmit’s untimely death remains a mystery.

In mid-2013, with investigations into Deutsche’s conduct mounting, Mr. Broeksmit did pay a visit to a psychiatrist in London that became part of the coroner’s examination into his death. According to the doctor’s diagnosis, Mr. Broeksmit had “imagined being investigated, being prosecuted, losing his wealth and his reputation.” But, in the same letter, the doctor said his patient recognized that these thoughts were not a “realistic possibility,” even if they caused him sleeplessness and anxiety.

There are no records of Mr. Broeksmit paying further visits to a psychiatrist in the year before his death.

Outwardly, friends and colleagues do not recall Mr. Broeksmit showing signs of stress, although they do say he had always been very private in terms of his inner life. While he peppered his lawyers for updates on various investigations, he also made plans with a group of former colleagues to take a ski trip in February.

But on Jan. 26, 2014, instead of meeting his wife and son for lunch, Mr. Broeksmit slung a dog leash over a door in his London home, and hanged himself from it. Left by his side was a neat stack of company documents related to Deutsche’s New York banking operations, and suicide notes addressed to relatives, as well as one to Mr. Jain.

“You were good to me,” Mr. Broeksmit wrote to the man he had known for over 30 years, adding, “I am eternally sorry.”

This concludes this three-part article.

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