Friday, April 4, 2008

Looking For A Stock Broker?

Are you looking for a stock broker? Do you need help trying to pick one? Every year around springtime Barron’s publishes who they think are the best. Investor Brain informs us of the 13th Annual Review of Online Brokers Up at Barron's Online. Investor Brain is written by Theresa W. Carey. She is the author of "The Electronic Investor" column in Barron's magazine. I like the Investor Brain site and find it interesting and useful. It contains a link to the Barron’s article on stock brokers.

If you are looking for a broker the best thing you can do is to do your own research. Check them out online for yourself. Some are quite accommodating. For example, Fidelity lets you sign on as a guest. You can even use their excellent stock screener when signed on as a guest. I wish more brokers let you do this.

As with anything, you should take any advice with a grain of salt, including mine too, I suppose. With that said, here are a few quick personal observations about online stock brokers and the reviews of them you may find.

I consider myself more of an investor, rather than a trader. What I want from an online stock broker are basically three things: a good stock screener, a good return on my cash, and a method of telling me how my investments are doing. Believe it or not, it is hard to find all three from one broker. Most brokers seem to think that everyone wants the latest gee-whiz software trading platform, and that they don’t care about the basics.

Think of how you will be using your broker. What will be important for you. As I’ve said, most brokers seem to market toward traders, rather than investors. If you’re not a trader they may not be the broker for you. Vanguard usually scores low, if at all, on broker reviews. However, if you are a “buy and hold” type of investor Vanguard offers an advantage other brokers don’t, a great money-market fund to park your cash. It all depends on what your priorities are. Most broker reviews don’t get into this very much.

I feel that Scottrade is overrated in most of these reviews. It is a good company, has great customer service, low commissions, however I’ve had problems with their stock screener online. Also their method of displaying cost basis online is kind of clunky. In fact, clunky is how I would describe their whole site.

Fidelity has a great stock screener. It has more bells and whistles than you may ever need. Sometimes their site seems very slow, however.

Firstrade has a customizable setup for telling you how well your investments are doing. I wish all brokers used this method.

I liked E*Trade. However, I moved my money out after their recent bankruptcy scare. They have an excellent web site, good cost basis information, and a good screener. Their customer service is not as bad as some would have you believe. I don’t like their use of teaser rates to get you to try something, however.

So there you have it. Just a few personal thoughts about stock brokers, by no means comprehensive. Do you have any personal experience with an online stock broker? I welcome your comments and thoughts.

3 comments - Post a comment :

lukematt said...

The online stock and options broker TradeKing (www.tradeking.com) is CORRUPT.

Problem #1

Effective August 28, 2008, the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) will suspend trading in the stock of PreMD Inc. (symbol: PME) and will initiate delisting proceedings.

Before the market opened on August 26, 2008, I had 1000 shares of PME in my joint account at TradeKing.

After the market opened, I tried to submit an online “buy” order on this joint account for 3000 more shares of PME with a limit price of $0.04. TradeKing displayed the following error message:

“For securities that are less than $2, we only accept online purchases of 5,000 shares or less. Please reduce the quantity of shares or call us at 1-877-495-5464 to place the order.”

Obviously, this error message is ridiculous because my order shows that I wanted to buy 3000 shares, which is less than 5,000.

I contacted TradeKing via the “Live Chat” service on their website. After I explained the problem to “Adam”, TradeKing’s representative, he replied:

Adam: Alright, you really shouldn't be getting that message.....we're working on getting that taken care of. In the meantime, you can give us a call and one of our brokers can help you with that.

At that point, I knew that TradeKing was pulling another dirty trick on me (see below for previous dirty tricks from TradeKing). I refuse to submit my orders by telephone; I did not open an account at an online brokerage company so I could place orders by telephone.

Clearly, somebody was trying to make it inconvenient for me to buy PME shares during the next-to-the-last day that PME stock would be listed on AMEX.

Idiots. They assumed that I would only submit a “buy” order for PME on the joint account where I already held 1000 shares of PME. However, I have a second account at TradeKing (an IRA account).

I submitted the same order on my IRA account, and TradeKing accepted it. In a short time, my order was executed, and I obtained the 3000 PME shares.

I tried the same order again on my joint account, and the error message still appeared.

The fact that the error message appeared only on my joint account, not on other TradeKing accounts, shows that TradeKing had specifically programmed their software to target me.

Problem #2

On or about May 1, 2008, after Labopharm Inc. (symbol: DDSS) reported its 2008 Q1 results, I tried to submit an online “sell” order for 3000 shares of Labopharm that I held in my IRA account. TradeKing displayed the following error message:

“We are no longer accepting orders online for this particular security. Please call us at 877-495-5464 to place this order.”

I later posted a blog on TradeKing’s Community, questioning the cause of this error message.

TradeKing CEO Don Montanaro stated in a comment to my blog that his firm has received an alert about Labopharm through “a common data-sharing project in which we participate, along with the SEC, FBI, and other regulators and law enforcement officials”. The alert, according to Montanaro, flags Labopharm shares “for suspected or confirmed manipulation”.

However, another member of the TradeKing Community commented, “Strange...placed test orders for DDSS with Ameritrade, ThinkOrSwim, Fidelity - no messages.”

Finally, I sent an email to Labopharm, describing TradeKing’s claim about manipulation of Labopharm stock. Labopharm responded:

This came to our attention a few weeks ago, we looked into it with the help of NASDAQ. We are not aware of any manipulation of our shares nor is NASDAQ. We also have not been informed of any investigation on behalf of any regulatory body related to the manipulation of our shares.

Regards,

Jason Hogan
Labopharm Investor Relations


Clearly, somebody was trying to make it inconvenient for me to trade Labopharm shares online at TradeKing.

Problem #3

When I first opened my accounts at TradeKing, somebody at TradeKing would make random changes to my postal address in TradeKing’s records.

Then, TradeKing would attempt to send a letter to me. The postal service would return the letter to TradeKing as “not deliverable”. In response, without notifying me, TradeKing would block my entire accounts until I complained.

Here’s an excerpt from the final email message that I received from TradeKing:

Dear Mr. Bowyer,

This email is in response to your recent message sent to our Service email inbox. Thank you for your patience in awaiting this response.

I reviewed the account and we have now updated the address based on your instructions below. It appears as though we had the address line transposed.

Thanks
Dave Dusseault

David Dusseault | Director, Brokerage Operations
ddusseault@tradeking.com
Office – 877-495-5464
Fax 561-988-0131
5455 N. Federal Highway, Suite E, Boca Raton, FL 33487


Again, somebody was trying to inconvenience my online trading at TradeKing.


Who would want to inconvenience me?

Well, I previously worked for a “group” that is responsible for many international financial scandals. After I quit, the group was not happy, and they have been making problems for my family ever since.

Have I reported TradeKing to a regulator?

Yes, I submitted a complaint to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). If I am not satisfied with how they handle my complaint, I will post another message here.


If you have any questions or if you would like to receive an original copy of this comment that includes screen shots, please feel free to contact me by email.

Jeffrey W. Bowyer (an American citizen)
jbowyer@seznam.cz

lukematt said...

If you ever wonder how the Credit Crisis could get so far out of control, you’ll find a perfect example in the corrupt folks at online stock and options broker TradeKing (www.tradeking.com), who continue to follow orders from their Mafia handlers. (See my previous message about TradeKing’s meddling with my accounts.)

1. When I inquired about TradeKing’s policy regarding dividend reinvestment, they responsed:

Dear Mr. Bowyer,

Thank you for contacting TradeKing.

You are correct. Accounts are by default setup to receive cash dividends and to not have them reinvested. To add dividend reinvestment (DRIP) to your account or a particular security, you simply need to send us your request by email.

Best regards,

Chris Lebhar
Electronic Customer Support
TRADEKING
5455 N. Federal Hwy, Suite E, Boca Raton, FL 33487
(877) 495-5464


2. According to my TradeKing statement for the monthly period ending December 31, 2008, I received a dividend on two different funds from the “Rydex” family of funds:

12/05/2008 DIVIDEND RYDEX SERIES FUNDS
INVERSE NASDAQ 100
STRATEGY FUND CLASS C
Amount: XXXXXXXXXXXXX

12/05/2008 DIVIDEND RYDEX SERIES FUNDS
INVERSE S&P 500 STRATEGY
C CLASS
Amount: XXXXXXXXXXXXX


Although I *never* told TradeKing to reinvest dividends for either of these funds, my account statement shows that TradeKing reinvested the dividend for only one of the funds:

12/05/2008 REINVEST DIV NUMBER OF SHARES BOUGHT: XXXXXXX RYDEX SERIES FUNDS
INVERSE S&P 500 STRATEGY
C CLASS
REINVEST AT 49.720
Amount: XXXXXXXXXXXXX


Of course, the reinvestment price of $49.72 per share is significantly higher than my average share price for this fund, so the reinvestment is not good for me.

3. Do I need to explain to you why TradeKing would behave this way? They’re just following orders from my former employers, the international Mafia, who is responsible for the world’s current credit crisis.


Jeffrey W. Bowyer
jbowyer@seznam.cz

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