Depressed ABN Amro banker who could not live with his shame

A sad ending to the story I wrote about a few days ago.

This from The Independent:

When Huibert Boumeester left his home in Belgravia last Monday morning, it was supposed to have been to attend an appointment to start rebuilding a once-glittering banking career. After three months out of work while battling depression, he was due to discuss his options with a City headhunting agency.

But rather than head to the Square Mile, the multimillionaire former chief financial officer of Dutch bank ABN Amro, philanthropist and country sports enthusiast climbed into his dark blue Range Rover together with two of the six shotguns he kept at his houses in Scotland and London.

Boumeester headed out of the capital towards the woodlands around Windsor Great Park, a spot he had come to know when seeking sanctuary from the pressures exerted on him last year. The stresses of work had escalated when his employer of 21 years became the subject of a disastrous £50bn takeover by the Royal Bank of Scotland – and an emblem of the hubris that led to the credit crunch.

After a week of frantic worry in which his wife had made a public appeal for him to get in touch, the grim purpose of Boumeester’s visit to a wood at Winkfield became clear when a body was discovered on Sunday morning. Thames Valley Police said the man, who has not been formally identified but is believed to be Boumeester, died from gunshot wounds to the head. His £75,000 car was found nearby.

Sources said there did not appear to be any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the 49-year-old father of three, suggesting that he has joined a growing list of senior financiers for whom substantial wealth offered little protection from the emotional traumas of joblessness and diminishing status in a recession blamed squarely on their profession.

A friend of Boumeester said yesterday: “Huibert was a big character. He was a deal-maker like almost no-one else I’ve met. Through sheer force of personality he made his deals happen, without being the textbook ruthless banker. He was hurt by the ABN takeover. He backed the losing bidder and he had to go. After that he struggled personally. What has happened is incredibly sad. He clearly felt he couldn’t go on in the current climate.”

Researchers at Edinburgh University predicted earlier this year that the rapid onset and depth of the current recession would lead to an increase in mental illness and spark a rise in suicide rates similar to those seen during the downturns of the early 1980s and between 1991 and 1992.

The Samaritans also warned that unemployed people were two to three times more likely to take their own lives than those in employment. A spokesman said: “If you lose your job, it can cause a loss of status and feelings of guilt. Even if you are employed, the concern of keeping your job and being a breadwinner can work its way into mental illness.”

The scion of one of Holland’s most influential industrialist families, Huibert Boumeester – described as “ebullient, respected and driven”– had dedicated his entire career to ABN Amro. He joined the Dutch bank as a law graduate in 1987, initially working behind the counter at a branch in Utrecht before rapidly ascending in the company’s investment banking division.

He held a series of positions in Europe, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, supervising investments worth €166bn (£141bn) before becoming the bank’s chief financial officer in 2007. His appointment coincided with the height of the battle for ABN between a consortium led by RBS and Barclays, which had intended a merger with the Dutch bank.

Boumeester, who was predicted to receive a 35 per cent pay rise and a bonus of €2.3m if the Barclays bid had won, was also expected to become the sole senior ABN manager who would become an executive director in the combined banking group.

A City source said: “It was well known that most of the senior ABN guys wanted the Barclays deal, including Huibert Boumeester. They could see that if RBS won, their positions would be pretty much untenable because they were in overlapping jobs. Huibert Boumeester was in exactly that position. After seeing out contractual obligations he would have gone.”

The ABN board member, whose salary is thought to have increased from £440,000 to more than £600,000 in 2007, left the bank in March last year. It is understood he received a “golden goodbye” worth €3.8m before joining the board of Artemis Asset Management, a London-based fund manager formerly owned by ABN.

Boumeester had a lifestyle to match his status as a respected and influential financier. As well as his £6m townhouse in Wilton Crescent, a handsome Regency terrace close to Harrods, he owned a home in Clapham, south London, and a 150-acre estate near Coupar Angus in Perthshire.

Along with his role as the sole director of a company specialising in country sports run from Belgravia, Boumeester was also a philanthropist and set up three foundations in the name of an ancestor who was a Dutch general in the late 19th century and oversaw Holland’s military activities in Asia.

The Boumeester Foundation, established after Mr Boumeester’s time in Asia, aims to conserve traditional culture in countries such as Vietnam, China and Bhutan as well as promoting education and nature conservation in the developing world.In a statement on the charity’s website, Boumeester said: “The amount of talented people worldwide has never been counted, but it is certain that a good few talents never blossom. In as far as this is caused by a lack of means to pay for a proper education then those who have the means can obviously provide assistance. If it can be helped, then the development of talent should not be hindered. “

But beneath the affluent exterior, the Dutchman was struggling with inner demons. He left Artemis in March this year for what the company said were “personal reasons”, and it is understood he had been suffering from depression for a number of months. He was also living separately from his wife, Anne, and their two younger children.

At the time of his disappearance last week, Scotland Yard underlined that Boumeester had been “feeling down of late” and “vulnerable”. Despite an appeal from Anne Boumeester for her husband to get in touch, his mobile phone remained switched off and there was no attempt to use any bank card.

In a statement last night, his family said: “We are deeply grieved by what we must now assume is a tragic outcome. We are left with great sadness.”

City suicides: Victims of the credit crunch

Kirk Stephenson

The 47-year-old millionaire boss of private equity company Olivant Advisers killed himself last September by jumping in front an express train in Berkshire. His wife, Karina, said that when the banking crisis hit, he had become “very tense and worried about a lot of things he had worked hard for”.

Adolf Merckle

The fifth richest man in Germany, who once presided over a £5bn fortune, walked 300 metres through snow from his home to a railway line in January this year and stepped in front of a train. His family said the 74-year-old had felt “powerless to act” as his empire of 120 companies folded in the crisis.

Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet

The 66-year-old French fund manager was found at his desk in New York shortly before Christmas having cut his wrists. His company lost more than £850m in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Eric von der Porten

The San Francisco hedge-fund manager killed himself last December when his investments fell by more than 40 per cent in a year. The 50-year-old’s family said he had been struggling with depression but the downturn had been “a big trigger”.

Thomas Sabour

The 44-year-old managing director of a Mayfair investment manager died in his London flat in April after taking a large amount of cocaine and some heroin. He was being treated for depression which was blamed on the credit crunch.

David Kellerman

The chief financial officer of American mortgage giant Freddie Mac was found hanging in his Washington home in April. The company was under investigation over its accounting methods.

Michael Jackson took Paxil (Seroxat) as part of his deadly drug cocktail

I think Michael Jackson’s ‘Doctor’ has a lot to answer for…

This from the Sun:

THE deadly drug cocktail taken daily by King of Pop Michael Jackson is revealed for the first time by The Sun today.

The shock list emerged as police probing an injection which preceded the star’s tragic death spoke with a doctor last night.

Jacko, 50, was taking up to THREE powerful narcotic pain relievers at the same time — when any more than one is deemed potentially fatal.

Sources close to the singer’s entourage said he was injected three times a day with Demerol – the potent painkiller given to him before his collapse at home in LA on Thursday.

Jacko, who suffered a heart attack, was taking another painkiller, Dilaudid. And sources said he had recently been prescribed yet ANOTHER narcotic pain reliever, Vicodin.

His other drugs included muscle relaxant Soma, a sedative called Xanax and anti-depressant Zoloft. He also took Paxil for anxiety and heartburn pill Prilosec.

Police were trying last night to establish who gave his final injection.

Officers were due to speak to heart doctor Conrad Robert Murray, who acted as one of the star’s personal physicians.

His whereabouts were unknown at one point, but he was set to be interviewed later.

The Sun can reveal Dr Murray was at Jackson’s house the morning he died. He was quizzed in hospital after the star’s death.

And the company who organised Jackson’s forthcoming London tour have today said Dr Murray was on their payroll.

AEG Live President Randy Phillips said Jackson insisted they take on the cardiologist for his comeback concerts.

Phillips said: “He just said, ‘Look, this whole business revolves around me. I’m a machine and we have to keep the machine well-oiled,’ and you don’t argue with the King of Pop.”

Sources also say that Jackson’s family have stated they want to know more specifics about what role AEG and their advisors were playing in the tragic pop star’s life.

Another personal doctor to Jacko, Lebanese Tohme R Tohme, was also questioned at the hospital.

Neither had been named as a suspect last night.

A close member of Jackson’s family said the daily dose of Demerol was “too much” and confirmed the 11.30am shot caused his death, according to celeb website TMZ.

Overdose of prescription drugs may have killed Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was on antidepressants?

This from the Kansas City Star:

Life & Style reports that Michael Jackson was taking a cocktail of up to seven prescription drugs in the months before his death.

The star had been taking prescription painkillers including anti-depressant drugs Xanax, Zoloft and painkiller Demerol in recent months, sources close to Jackson told Life & Style. The insider close to the star said he took a suspected overdose of drugs on Thursday morning, which caused respiratory and cardiac arrest.

And a Jackson family lawyer told CNN he “feared” the drugs could kill the pop star. CNN’s interview with the source follows the jump.

Jackson family lawyer Brian Oxman confirmed Jackson may have had trouble with prescription drugs as he prepared for his London show.

“This was something which I feared and something which I warned about,” Oxman said on CNN. “I can tell you for sure that this is something I warned about. Where there is smoke there is fire.”

Mr Oxman compared Michael to Anna Nicole Smith, alleging that Michael had ‘enablers’ just like her.

CNN details Jackson’s long history of medical problems here. At a news conference, brother Jermaine Jackson said doctors and family tried “for an hour” to resuscitate the performer. TMZ’s video of the conference is here.

Meanwhile, Hollyscoop reports that doctors visited Jackson “daily.” The site’s latest update:

While news of Michael Jackson’s death came as a shock to many, inside sources tell Hollyscoop exclusively that the King of Pop “had doctors visiting him daily.”

Michael went into cardiac arrest Thursday afternoon and was rushed to UCLA Medical Center around 1pm. His personal physician was with him at the time and accompanied him to the hospital.

At approximately 1:14pm when he arrived at the hospital, doctors and emergency personnel performed CPR and tried to resuscitate him, but were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at 2:26pm.

The cause of his death is still unknown, but an autopsy is scheduled for this coming Friday afternoon. Michael was transferred from UCLA Medical Center to the coroner’s office via a Los Angeles Sheriff’s helicopter shortly after 6pm.

Depressed ABN Amro banker vanishes with two shotguns

This from Justin Davenport writing for the London Evening Standard.

A high flying banker who lost his City job in the credit crunch has gone missing armed with two shotguns. Police today issued an urgent appeal to trace Huibert Boumeester, 49, a wealthy financier with homes in London and an estate in Scotland. They said they were extremely concerned for his welfare and urged anyone who sees him to call 999.

Police say Mr Boumeester, a father of two, had recently lost his job in the City and was known to be depressed. Recent records show that he is on the board of the Dutch banking group ABN Amro and a number of other City firms. The bank was the subject of the disastrous take over by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2007 which plunged RBS and its then chairman Sir Fred Goodwin into crisis.

Police in Westminster said Mr Boumeester was last seen in London on Sunday night.
He had been due to attend a meeting with a headhunter agency in the City on Monday morning but did not turn up. The company contacted his PA who then alerted police when she could not trace him by Monday evening. Officers say they have been to Mr Boumeester’s homes in Clapham and Victoria and what is described as an estate in Scotland but they can find no trace of the businessman.

Mr Boumeester was the legal owner of six guns including shotguns and rifles. Police have found four of the weapons at his homes in Scotland and London but two shotguns are outstanding. Detecive Inspector Mick Standing said: “We are seriously concerned for the safety of Mr Boumeester. We are extremely keen to locate him as soon as possible to make sure that he is well.

“There is particular concern because he is a registered firearms keeper and we cannot account for two of the firearms he owns. I would emphasise that we are conecrned for his safety. The issue is not about the public’s safety.” Police urged members of the public not to approach Mr Boumeester if he is spotted but to call 999. The banker is believed to be driving his blue 56 plate Range Rover.

So, while he may be depressed, the $64,000 question is what medication has been prescribed to him – an SSRI like Seroxat maybe?

Let’s wait to see how this story turns out, but we know that SSRIs and guns don’t mix.

Antidepressant use soars as the recession bites

This from Jamie Doward at The Observer:

Fears the recession is affecting the mental health of the nation appear to be borne out by new figures that show prescriptions of antidepressants are soaring.

Last year in England there were 2.1m more prescriptions of antidepressants than in 2007, leading to concerns that doctors are increasingly supplying the drugs as a “quick fix” without attempting to address the underlying cause of the problems. In total, 36m prescriptions were given out, an increase of 24% over the past five years.

“The increase in the number of people being prescribed antidepressants is deeply disturbing,” said the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, Norman Lamb, who obtained the figures. “England has become a true Prozac nation.”

Lamb said it appeared the economy was a major factor in the increase. “The figures raise serious concerns over the impact of the current recession on people’s mental health,” he said. “Ministers have acted far too slowly to ensure that support is put in place to help people through these difficult times.”

The links between economic woes and depression are well documented. Victoria Walsh, campaigns and policy manager at mental health charity Rethink, said its information centres and telephone advice lines were reporting a surge in people experiencing problems as a result of financial difficulties. “We are seeing people coming in who have been high fliers and now find life without their jobs overwhelming,” she said.

Politicians and experts working in the field of depression said it was important that alternative therapies should be made available to counter the increasing reliance on antidepressants at a time when people were at their most vulnerable. “Doctors want their patients to have effective, long-term help, and drugs must not be the only answer,” Lamb said. “Urgent action is needed to ensure psychological therapies are available to those who need them.”

Read on here.

The truth about how addictive Seroxat (Paxil) is…

Well not actually the truth, I’m afraid – read on and you’ll see Glaxo actually has a couple of conflicting things to say Seroxat and addiction – and they both can’t be truth.

You might think that after all the years of doctors and patients all around the world saying Seroxat is highly addictive – oops, sorry, causes dependence and severe withdrawal reactions – that Glaxo would simply undertake the definitive study to prove us all wrong and to really show the world once and for all  how safe and non-addictive Seroxat is…

Glaxo could have done this years ago but it has not. In fact, the official Paxil prescribing information (produced by Glaxo, current version) confirms this by saying:

DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE
Controlled Substance Class: PAXIL is not a controlled substance.
Physical and Psychologic Dependence: PAXIL has not been systematically studied in animals or humans for its potential for abuse, tolerance or physical dependence…

Again, I ask Glaxo why have no systematic studies been done? Why not put an end to all the stories about ‘poop out’ (tolerance) and withdrawal nightmares and prove once and for all what it says is true and we are wrong?

Or maybe, just maybe Glaxo isn’t telling us the whole truth…

The following exchange is from a transcript of a video deposition taken from Dr. David Wheadon, who was at the time, Vice President Regulatory Affairs and Product Professional Services, GlaxoSmithKline, in Philadelphia, PA on Thursday, October 19, 2000 prior to the Tobin/Schell civil suit.

Questioning Dr. Wheadon were California attorney Donald J. Farber and Texas attorney Andy Vickery.

Paxil Victim’s Attorney: I’m asking you to kind of elevate yourself above this particular paper and go to your general knowledge now on Paxil. You have been now with the company eight years, and you have studied and are aware, I presume, of Paxil’s traits in either causing or unrelated to addiction and withdrawal, and based on that general knowledge I think you probably have, do you consider as a labeling instruction today that this paragraph, physical and psychological dependence, is a good labeling instruction?

GlaxoSmithKline’s Dr. Wheadon: Well, quite frankly, it is an outdated labeling instruction, because there have been a number of systematic studies in humans looking at the potential for Paxil for abuse, tolerance and physical dependence. So actually, there is data to date to negate the statement that it has not been systematically studied, because, in fact, it has been.

I’m getting confused now – under oath, Dr Wheadon clearly stated Paxil (Seroxat) HAS been studied a number of times in humans looking at the potential for Paxil for abuse, tolerance and physical dependence…

Hang on though, the current, official Paxil prescribing information says that:

…Paxil HAS NOT been systematically studied in animals or humans for its potential for abuse, tolerance or physical dependence…

So while Wheadon said one thing (under oath) in 2000, Glaxo says the EXACT OPPOSITE in its current official prescribing information.

The questions remains – just how addictive is Seroxat?

Who knows the truth – Glaxo or David Wheadon?

One thing is for sure, the public aren’t being told the truth…

MHRA and Ian Hudson – still questions to be answered

Things have moved on at the MHRA so they tell us… it wants to be more open, it wants to engage with us…

Well, I’d like it to be more open about one of its employees, Ian Hudson.

I’ve been wanting to get to the truth since January 2005 when the House of Commons Health Select Committee questioned some senior MHRA members about Seroxat (Paxil).

Here’s some background: Ian Hudson worked at SmithKline Beecham for 11 years (Glaxo 2 weeks) as Worldwide Director of Safety. He then joined the MHRA as its Head of Drug Licensing.

During his time at SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo he had “significant involvement” with a number of drugs, especially Paroxetine (Seroxat) and two others. We know this because of this document – Ian Hudson Interests – which he filled in before joined the European Medicines Agency.

I’ve mentioned it before, but Hudson is such an authority on Seroxat that Glaxo used him as one of their defence witnesses in the famous Tobin/Schell case (he gave evidence for Glaxo alongside David Wheadon).

See below for this entry from the Seroxat Timeline.

June 14 2001:
People can’t get hooked on Seroxat as they did on the older drugs such as Librium and Valium, claims GSK.
For over a decade, the company line has been swallowed, along with the pills. But a court case in Wyoming, USA, has changed all that. The jury decided Seroxat – Paxil in the USA – was to blame for Donald Schell killing his wife, daughter, baby granddaughter and then himself.

Enter Ian Hudson, witness for the defence and at the time of his deposition earlier in 2001, worldwide safety director for GSK. That’s Ian Hudson, now director of licensing at the Medicines Control Agency in the UK (later to become the MHRA).

What did he have to say to the evidence of Mr Schell’s closest remaining family and three psychiatrists who all believed the tablets of Paxil/Seroxat Mr Schell took for just two days precipitated him into an unnatural and totally uncharacteristic murderous and suicidal frenzy? His position is that an individual case cannot tell you one way or the other – only randomised controlled trials will do.

But Dr David Healy says that randomised control trials are the wrong tool to establish whether serious side effects are occurring. The way to investigate what is happening is to carry out a challenge-rechallenge trial, where people are given the drug, taken off it and then put back on.

But GSK has not carried out that sort of study to establish whether or not Seroxat can make people agitated, suicidal, murderous or hooked. Nor has it carried out a randomised controlled trial. Here is a black hole. There is no proof that the drug does these things, says GSK, and because of that there is no reason to carry out trials that might decide it one way or the other.

Does Mr Hudson still take that view now he is at the MHRA, which watches over the safety of the British public? “If he takes the position with the MHRA that he took at the trial, then none of us is safe with any drug in the UK at the moment,” says Dr Healy. How would Mr Hudson even be able to blame alcohol for making someone drunk?

So what does Mr Hudson think? As always, the MHRA declines to answer detailed questions.

The MHRA will (?) have been supplied with all the healthy volunteer data before it granted the licence for Seroxat. It doesn’t seem to have been worried then, which makes one wonder who, exactly, was steering them as to what it meant.

More on Hudson here and here.

The strange thing is that on the day the House of Commons Health Select Committee wanted to hear evidence from the MHRA specifically about Seroxat trial data and safety, Professor Alaisdair Breckenridge (MHRA Chairman), Professor Kent Woods (MHRA CEO) and June Raine (MHRA Director of Vigilence and Risk Management) all managed to attend the hearing.

MPs had expected to be able to question Ian Hudson as well… unfortunately Dr Hudson could not attend as he had a prior engagement.

At the time, the UK press reported Ian Hudson’s non-appearance at the House of Commons like this: “Members of the House of Commons select committee on health appeared angry that they were not able to question one of the employees of the United Kingdom’s drug regulatory authority at a session last week looking into the influence of the drug industry. Although several senior figures from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency attended the session, the committee said that it would also have liked to have heard evidence from Ian Hudson. Dr Hudson is a member of the agency’s executive board and was worldwide director of safety at SmithKline Beecham from 1999 to 2001, having worked for the company since 1989. Dr Hudson joined the agency’s predecessor, the Medicines Control Agency, in January 2001 as director of the licensing division. MPs wanted to question Dr Hudson about the company’s drug paroxetine (marketed as Seroxat in Britain and as Paxil in the United States). They were particularly interested in evidence concerning the safety and efficacy of the drug in people under the age of 18. In June 2003 the agency advised doctors that patients aged under 18 should not be prescribed the drug.”

I know someone who attended the hearing that day as well, and he confirms that David Hinchcliffe, the Chairman of the meeting was angry & exasperated “There was a great feeling of cover up, or at least that’s what I felt sitting there nearby Charles Medawar. Charles Medawar’s overall demeanour was one of anger, alongside David Hinchcliffe who was also angry & exasperated…”

The transcript of the hearing is here, read around question 783 for a flavour of how the committee and Chairman felt.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the MHRA has made public an email, download here – Witnesses for Thursday.pdf – apparently showing that Hudson’s non-appearance was agreed in a phone call between Lord Warner (government Health minister) and David Hinchcliffe (meeting Chairman) just a few days before the hearing. This email was from Neil Townley at the Dept. of Health to David Harrison – the Clerk of the committee (and copied to Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge.

However this exchange from the hearing is most interesting:

Q790 John Austin: I think it would have been useful if Dr Hudson had been here because, as far as I understand, he was at SmithKline Beecham and his department was responsible for the collection of adverse reaction information such as there was with Seroxat.
Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge: Yes, I know that, but I—
Q791 John Austin: So he would have been a very key witness.
Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge: But I have not discussed that with Dr Hudson.
Q792 John Austin: So you must admit that it is very unfortunate he is not with us today?
Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge: Well, I apologise for that, but I think there was some confusion about who was going to attend and I think the Clerk was told that this was where Dr Hudson was going to be.

Why did Breckenridge reply to Q792 as he did? The email that was copied to him on Monday 17 January clearly states Lord Warner and Hinchcliffe had just agreed that it would only be Breckenridge, Woods and Raine who were appearing. For Breckenridge to say “…I think there was some confusion about who was going to attend and I think the Clerk was told that this was where Dr Hudson was going to be…” beggars belief.

Well, I think there was no confusion at all. I think the Clerk was never told that Hudson would appear. I think Breckenridge was lying when he said that. I think it would have been too embarrassing to let Ian Hudson be questioned.

I think this stinks.

Why didn’t Breckenridge simply say that “Ian Hudson is not here today because you, Mr Chairman, agreed his non-appearance with Lord Warner on Monday of this week”… (the hearing was Thursday).

And why, if Hinchcliffe did agree the list of attendees, did he say nothing to explain the confusion to the hearing….

So, the question is just what did Lord Warner say to Hinchcliffe during their phone call on the morning of Monday 17 January 2005?

Come on MHRA – let’s you and me have an open and honest discussion about this then.

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