Merrill Systems Hiccuped on Thursday as Stocks Slid
Merrill Lynch brokers were unable to transfer funds or enter notes in client accounts for two hours on Thursday as markets were tanking, while some self-directed customers couldn’t access their accounts.
The issues occurred on a day when markets tumbled, prompting a flurry of angry social media messages from customers.
Several customers Friday morning tweeted about waits of more than an hour to reach customer service, followed by promises they would hear from a “retention team” member with some sort of offer.
“Hope @MerrillLynch @MerrillEdge @BankofAmerica can make this right or @TDAmeritrade here I come!,” tweeted @Andy_D_Martinez.
A Merrill broker who spoke on condition of anonymity said advisors were able to enter trades normally, but a spokesman confirmed that customers using Merrill Lynch Wealth Management’s MyMerrill, an advisor-assisted trading platform and mobile app, and Merrill Edge’s self-directed system had difficulty placing orders. He characterized the issue as a “slowdown.”
The spokesman declined to comment on the cause or causes of the outage, and did not elaborate on what offers were being made to clients.
Morgan Stanley brokers and customers lost access to order-entry and trading systems on March 25 for more than four hours as a result of a problem with IBM software. The firm subsequently reimbursed clients for revenue related to missed transactions that disadvantaged them.
According to a notice sent to Merrill’s approximately 14,000 brokers on Thursday, the technology outage was “broadly affecting numerous internal applications in addition to MyMerrill.”
The problems began around noon Eastern time and by 2:00 p.m. were resolved aside from “minor residual issues,” the notice said.
Merrill and other brokerage firms have weathered the remote-work routines of the coronavirus environment with relative smoothness, but have faced issues, particularly on high-volume days.
On Monday, self-directed trading customers at Charles Schwab Corp., Robinhood Markets, Vanguard, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity Investments were temporarily unable to trade. Some of the firms said the issue reflected overwhelming volume precipitated by splits in the stocks of Apple Inc. and Tesla Inc., according to published reports.
On March 25, some Merrill Edge clients lost access to their accounts for about 20 minutes, while Merrill brokers were unable to see customer accounts and input trades from workstations the morning of April 21 due to an internet service provider issue.
Wealth management clients at JP Morgan Chase lost access to an electronic trading platform as markets were sinking on March 12.
Thursday’s glitch came as technology stocks were crashing, infecting broad market indexes. The S&P 500 fell 3.5%, the tech-focused Nasdaq was down 5% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 800 points, or 2.8%.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed putative class action suits against Robinhood over a systemwide crash that prevented customers from trading amid volatile market action in early March as U.S. investors were absorbing the gravity of the pandemic. The 13 suits, which seek to certify up to 10 million class members, have been consolidated in a federal court in the Northern District of California.