By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 20, 2014
If it’s at all possible, don’t die on the premises of a too-big-to-fail bank like JPMorgan. That’s because if you do your otherwise meritorious life and career is likely to be turned into a circus of slanderous tidbits in order to promote the reputation of the global banking behemoth as the benevolent guardian of all things noble and saintly.
A coroner’s inquest began at 10 a.m. in London this morning to investigate how 39 year old Gabriel Magee, a technology Vice President who worked in JPMorgan’s European headquarters at 25 Bank Street in London, came to be found dead on a 9th level rooftop at approximately 8:02 a.m. on the morning of January 28 of this year.
The inquest had barely begun when the wire service, Reuters, ran this headline: “JP Morgan Executive Had High Alcohol Level Before Skyscraper Plunge, London Inquest Hears.” That’s called framing the story. Within the next hour, newspapers around the globe who had no reporter at the inquest to do first hand reporting, were running with the Reuters headline and abbreviated story.
Next up was a seriously specious headline from the UK Mirror newspaper. The headline that ran in bold black type at the newspaper’s web site declared that “A JP Morgan Bank Vice-President Said He ‘Couldn’t Handle This’ Before Falling Canary Wharf Tower Block.” (The word “Off” seems to be missing from the headline as well as any semblance of truthful reporting.)
The Mirror headline neglects to explain that those words were uttered at least six years prior to Gabriel Magee’s death, when he was working for JPMorgan in New York – words that 90 percent of computer programmers have likely uttered at some point in their career; sometimes a dozen times a day. (That JPMorgan investigators were forced to dig out this ancient nugget and present it at the inquest shows just how little they had to go on to make this suicide story stick.)
The Mirror also ferreted out a tidbit from an ex-girlfriend, reporting: “She added that Magee had had thoughts about life in another universe that she did not understand and that he had continually refused help from those close to him.” The idea of “life in another universe” is shared by the majority of 2.18 billion people, otherwise known as Christians, who believe in life after death and heaven. Typically, they are not urged to get “help” for those beliefs.
The cold hard facts on the ground are these: Gabriel Magee was in a loving relationship with a beautiful young attorney, Veronica Strande. They were happily living together. Ms. Strande testified at the inquest that “there was no problem.” Sources close to both of them say that Magee had brought Strande to the U.S. to meet his parents and was very happy in the relationship.
As far as being a kook as portrayed by the ex-girlfriend, Magee’s own career nullifies that assertion. He had worked for JPMorgan in one of the most demanding of technology jobs for more than a decade. He has received promotions and bonuses and risen to the rank of Vice President. He was a key player in one of the most important areas of technology at the company. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was currently engaged in “Technical architecture oversight for planning, development, and operation of systems for fixed income securities and interest rate derivatives.”
A former colleague told Wall Street On Parade that Magee “focused extensively on Java and Sybase databases. He also did C++ and many other UNIX related languages.”
In fact, Magee’s career history was staid and stable compared to the history of his firm which has been charged by regulators with an endless series of crimes over the past 18 months, including lying to Congress, facilitating the Madoff fraud (two suspended felony counts for that one and two years of probation), rigging electric markets in California and the Midwest, fraudulently selling mortgages, losing $6.2 billion of bank depositors’ money in a crazy derivatives scheme (London Whale), rigging Libor interest rates and on and on.
The bank’s reputation under its current CEO and Chairman, Jamie Dimon, was summed up thusly by Senator Carl Levin: The bank “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.” (See our series here for an in depth look at the culture of this firm.)
The sensational reporting of news from Gabriel Magee’s inquest this morning was matched only by the outrageous and unprecedented reporting on the morning his body was discovered on January 28 of this year.
The Independent newspaper in London flatly stated that Magee “died after falling from the roof.” The London Evening Standard tweeted: “Bankers watch JP Morgan IT exec fall to his death from roof of London HQ,” which linked to their article which declared in its opening sentence that “A man plunged to his death from a Canary Wharf tower in front of thousands of horrified commuters today.”
The only person who seemed to give a whit about reporting this story honestly was Iain Dey, Deputy Business Editor of the Sunday Times in London, who flatly disputed the notion that a plunge from the rooftop had been observed by anyone when he reported that: “Gabriel Magee’s body lay for several hours before it was found at 8am last Tuesday.”
Lost in this morning’s sensational headlines was the very disturbing detail that out of those “thousands of horrified commuters” and the “bankers” reported to have seen Magee fall, not one eye witness has been produced by the police to this alleged jump from the top of JPMorgan’s offices at 25 Bank Street.
As it turns out, an ole pal of the Scotland Yard was put in charge of the internal JPMorgan investigation. Jonathan Shatford is a former Metropolitan Police officer from New Scotland Yard and a career detective who rose to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent over 32 years. Shatford previously worked for Bear Stearns, which collapsed during 2008 and was taken over by JPMorgan. Shatford is responsible for JPMorgan investigations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
As if there had been any doubt from the beginning as to the outcome of this inquest, the coroner, Mary Hassell, ruled at the end of the proceeding that “I am wholly satisfied that Gabriel jumped off the 32nd floor with the intention of killing himself.”
Case closed. Nothing to see here. Move along.