At 7 p.m. on a recent night on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, men and women in suits are streaming out of JP Morgan Chase, UBS, and other big banks nearby – while delivery guys on bikes drop off food.
Those dinners are going high upstairs, where the lights are on, to analysts and associates, the junior bankers on the lowest rung, who might work hundred-hour weeks, hoping they'll pay off.
Three years ago, Saad Siddiqui used to be one of them. When he was 23, he worked at the bank RBS. After a couple months of training, he was assigned to Mergers & Acquisitions, one of the company’s most prestigious groups. They do big deals – and work long hours.
“There was a deal that came in on a Friday around 5 or 6 o’clock, and we had to make a bid for the company by Monday,” he recalls. “Which meant that we had to work basically around the clock till Monday. I left for a total of about three hours during that weekend."
Siddiqui says that wasn't always the norm. And that he learned a lot. And made money. But the grind was, well, grinding.
So he left for a job in tech. “I know a lot of analysts that go months without having a single weekend off. And after a while, you start losing your mind. And just need to get away from the office.”
Now the big banks are saying junior bankers have to get away from the office. They're banning Saturday work, or saying one weekend a month is protected, or even bringing on more staff to spread out the load.
The concern began last summer when an intern in Bank of American's London office died after an epileptic seizure. The coroner noted that his hard work may have been a trigger. The bank began reviewing its policies after his death.
Marketplace got a copy of an internal memo that went out last week. It says junior bankers must take four weekend days off each month. The memo also says the bank wants to support work-life balance.
But there's something else going on here, too.
“Right now, Wall Street is not the only game in town for really talented people,” says Anthony Rose, a former CFO at Credit Suisse, and now a professor at Columbia Business School.
He says some of his students are going to venture capital firms, or to Silicon Valley to work in tech.
“Technology now is a big driver,” he says. “People are starting to ask the question of, ‘What else do I get out of it?’ And what they mean by that is, ‘Am I going to have to work 120 hours a week, or am I going to have a chance to spend time with my family or friends?”
There's skepticism that these announcements will actually change the culture of Wall Street, where people come to make money.
“You have guys and girls coming out of school with huge debt and a focus on getting a job, when right now it’s the most competitive it’s ever been,” says Harry Youtan, whose company Phaidon recruits bankers for jobs.
“These guys, perhaps irrespective of the things implemented by the big banks – the Goldmans, the J.P.’s the Credit Suisse – they’re going to work,” he says. “They want to show their commitment, and they want to show their loyalty.”
And of course, there are older bankers to contend with, who came up in the old system and may not take to the new policies. What happens to protected weekends when a managing director drops a project on somebody's desk at 5 p.m. on a Friday?
“That’ll probably be the first real test of crunch time,” says Columbia’s Rose. “Deal’s on the table, this guys going out to the Hamptons for the weekend. I think that will be the first real test of 'How do you implement this?'”
If a big deal happens, that test may come earlier. After all, the start of the week on Wall Street goes by the nickname "Merger Monday."
Venezuela is running out of newsprint and newspapers are shutting down. Media outlets say that it's another form of harassment by a government that often doesn't like what independent media reports.
After failing to agree upon an extension for federal jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed, Congress is vowing to keep trying. The help can't come soon enough for many of the 1.4 million unemployed who saw their checks suddenly cut off last month.
An appeals court ruled against the New Orleans public school system this week — a decision that could bankrupt the Orleans Parish public schools. The five-judge panel ruled that the school board wrongly terminated some 7,000 teachers and other school employees after Hurricane Katrina. For more information, Melissa Block speaks with education reporter Sarah Carr, who has written a book on the changes to the New Orleans school system after Katrina.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency on Friday, amid growing concerns about future water supplies for residents and for farmers. Brown called for a 20 percent voluntary reduction in water use and eased water transfer rights between farmers. However, mandatory measures will still be left to local communities to impose, for now.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will visit Florida this weekend to raise money for Gov. Rick Scott, his first major fundraising trip as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. The trip may answer some questions about how the scandal over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge will affect his path to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
When peace talks open in Switzerland, one common concern between the West and Syria is expected to be the threat of Islamist extremists and the rise of al-Qaida-linked militias. Thousands of Sunni militants from around the world have joined the rebel groups in Syria, but there are other groups of militant foreign fighters who support the Syrian regime. Iraqi Shiites are being recruited in the thousands to bolster Syria's armed forces. Recruiting billboards and social media help portray the fight as an existential battle between Sunnis and Muslims.
Your weekly roundup of tech headlines from NPR and publications around the country, including more credit card security breaches and the latest developments with the "Internet of Things." We asked what was in the hacked fridge, but — spoiler alert (pun intended) — we didn't find out.
The Oklahoma senator, a leading conservative, will retire two years early. He's battling cancer but says his decision is based on serving his family by "shifting my focus elsewhere."
We have a budget.
President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion spending bill that funds the federal government through the end of September.
Cardiff Garcia, from the blog FT Alphaville, says in Marketplace's Weekly Wrap segment:
"I just don't think we should be high-fiving ourselves because Congress finally decided to do its job. .... We're kind of holding the expectations bar really low, so it's easy to step over. The size of this budget is smaller, if you adjust for inflation, than George W. Bush's budget was six years ago. So if you, like me, think that Congress and the government and fiscal policy-makers haven't done enough to support the economy this really isn't that much to get excited about."
And forget excitement over a budget deal. There's another fiscal cloud on the horizon, according to Nela Richardson, from Bloomberg Goverment:
"They're getting ready for the debt ceiling debate. ... There are bigger fish to fry on the fiscal picture and they are going to fry them in February, when they can really hold the Treasury's head underwater on this issue of the debt ceiling."
Richardson says she thinks "it will all work out" with the debt ceiling because, as they say, the sequel is never as exciting as the original, "so maybe it won't be as exciting this time around."
Garcia and Richardson both say they are concerned about the failure to extend long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans.
The defrockings reportedly took place before the election of Pope Francis in March of 2013. The data was reportedly collected to help church officials testify before a U.N. panel.