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Ameritrade glitch still hinders trades

The online brokerage has just announced another acquisition, but some customers it acquired from a previous merger still can't trade online.

Ameritrade just announced another acquisition, but some customers it acquired from a previous merger still can't trade online.

Since last fall, some former corporate customers of National Discount Brokers, which Ameritrade bought in September, have been unable to view their account information online and have been forced to call a broker if they want to exercise their stock options.

The problem affects a "small percentage" of the approximately 100,000 institutional customers Ameritrade inherited from NDB, Ameritrade spokeswoman Donna Kush said on Wednesday. Ameritrade has no timetable for fixing the problem, Kush said.

"We have not discussed any changes to how we are handling this," she said. "This is the most feasible way to handle this at this time."

Last fall, Ameritrade replaced NDB's Web site with a new site, dubbed "Ameritrade Plus," and directed former NDB customers there. When it made the change, Ameritrade wrote NDB's institutional customers and warned them that they would no longer be able to go online to sell their stock options or stock they purchased under employee stock purchase plans.

More recently, some customers have been able to make trades online with their employee stock purchase plans.

The inability of some customers to trade online has to do with an incompatibility between Ameritrade's technology and that of AST StockPlan, said Kush. AST StockPlan administers some of Ameritrade's institutional accounts and acts as a middleman between Ameritrade and some of its corporate clients.

"I don't want to say that either one of us has a technology problem, but it's not feasible for us to handle it any other way," Kush said.

AST representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

On Sunday, Ameritrade announced that it has agreed to buy rival Datek Online Holdings for about $1.3 billion in stock. Datek had about 837,000 accounts, according to Ameritrade. But since all of Datek's accounts are with retail, not institutional customers, none of them should have the same problems with trading online that have faced the former NDB customers, Kush said.