Charles Schwab's Bad Computer Costs Customer $17,500

Has someone’s temerity ever cost you? How much? How about $17,500? Jeffrey writes:

    “I trade options through Charles Schwab, specifically the NDX 100, a very volatile index.

    I attempted to sell a position to close it. I set a specific price which if available in the market place would be matched and executed.

    These orders are generally executed in seconds.

    Schwab’s computer kicked out my order where it was manually reviewed for over 2 minutes. In that period of time I lost $17,500.

    It seems their computer was confused because I had changed the price which I wanted. The computer apparently thought there was a double order. They have not admitted to this but i have gleaned it from talking to their staff.

    While Schwab has the right to review an order this rarely happens because most brokers allow clients to bypass the broker and go right to market. Schwab is not sophisticated enough to allow this to happen. In any case they still have a right to speedy execution and fair dealing.

    After following up by claim, a Schwab rep told me, “We could put the order in our back pocket and hold it for a week if we chose.”

Takeaway: When using Charles Schwab’s options trading systems, measure twice, sell once. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Gunn says:

    $17k is chump change compared to the guys at Tradebot. There’s a fascinating article about the practice at InfoProc. I can’t imagine what it must be like to work there.

  2. Adamatic550 says:

    Wow, I can imagine the error happening, but being told nonchalantly that they could put your order in their back pocket and hold onto it for a week if they wanted to is just inexcusable customer service.

    I’ve been thinking about switching from my full service broker to an online one and was considering ‘talking to Chuck’

    Guess my consideration set has been narrowed a bit.

  3. SuperJdynamite says:

    This is the classic example of why day trading can be a bad idea.

  4. Hoss says:

    Sorry, but you get what you pay for.

  5. thenewpr says:

    I’d be lying if I said I understood even a tiny morsel of this, but fascinating stuff nonetheless. Sorry to hear about your loss. :(

  6. HawkWolf says:

    I know someone who works as some kind of analyst for this stuff. Companies go and sell some stock, and they don’t make as much as they should have. MY friend figures out what they should have made, and then they decide whether there is some sort of case for filing suit.

  7. LTS! says:

    And if the agreement with Schwab allows for this I would say this is hardly noteworthy. If not, then pursue something in accordance with your agreement.

    It sucks, but high reward = high risk.

  8. crayonshinobi says:

    2 minutes cost you $17.5k? I’ve had a Charles Schwab account for years and had nothing but great experiences with them.

    Sounds to me like your problem is with the volatile nature of the “investments” you’re making, not Charles Schwab.

  9. dayjayvw says:

    I completely agree with crayonshinobi, this is the mistake of the OP, not Charles Schwab’s policy being upheld to your dismay.

    OP is upset they followed the rules that cost you money?

  10. B says:

    Options trading is high risk and a great way to lose money, but what happened here isn’t the risks of dealing with a volatile market. It was caused by a computer error.

  11. Johnie says:

    I wonder if the guy would be complaining if it happend the other way. If the delay caused him to make another $17K.

    As others said, you get what you pay for.

  12. MonsieurBon says:

    I had a similar problem with Ameritrade many years ago. I had a limit order in to sell when the stock reached a certain price. It hit that price, went above it for two days, and it still wasn’t automatically selling it. I checked to make sure it wasn’t pending, and sold it manually.

    A few days later the automatic trade finally went through. But by then, since I didn’t have any of the stock, it became a margin order, which I did not have authorization to do. Despite not having authorization, it still went through.

    I don’t believe I lost a lot of money on this, but after talking to Ameritrade, who told me “gee, that’s too bad” I filed a complaint with the SEC and took my money out.