Could Morgan Stanley Suck Any Harder?


So I’ve had an account with Morgan Stanley for a few years now, due to IPO stock that was purchased at a prior employer through a “Friends and Family” program.  It was 150 shares of stock, and the company in which the shares were held has had its valuation drop significantly (as did many others) in the Second Depression we’re all in.

Yesterday, Morgan Stanley sold 119 of the shares of stock without telling me, to pay fees on the account.  I admit, I didn’t read the statements, because if I had, I would never have agreed to keep an account charging me $25/month on what was at best $1750 worth of stock.  However, what I object to is not necessarily the fees, but the fact that they sold the stock without telling me.

I’m sure somewhere in the fine print it said they could do that when the account was set up.  However, it seems to me that a normal business that has unpaid account fees would make some effort to contact the customer to have those debts resolved.  I might even have sold the stock myself to cover the account fees – but I would have liked to have had the CHOICE.  To make matters worse, because Morgan Stanley didn’t have an updated W-9 (something else for which they might have contacted me!) the IRS is now going to withhold 28% of the money even though I have had it for more than a year and the stock was sold at a loss.  Now I have to go get my money back from the government because Morgan Stanley can’t send emails from its system saying “We need an updated W-9”.  (It’s an easy form to fill out and send, and it would have taken me less than ten minutes if I had known it was needed!)

I’ve liquidated the account with them now, so I won’t be doing business with them ever again.  As if I needed further convincing, they charged me $21.95 commission and a $6 ‘maintenance fee’ to sell the other 31 shares of stock.  A $250 transaction cost more than 10% with them (to say nothing of the additional 28% of THAT money that I will now have to get from the IRS).  At Schwab, my commission is $9 with no ‘maintenance fee’, about a third of what Morgan Stanley charges.

Maybe I’m not the type of investor that Morgan Stanley wants as a client – it must have been really difficult for them to have let their automated systems care for the 150 shares I had.  Maybe I’m not rich enough for them.  To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have ever had an account with them if it weren’t required under the terms of the stock program, so the feeling is mutual.  What I can be sure of is that if I ever DO become rich enough to need a serious broker (and I’m working on it), then I can be damn sure that Morgan Stanley won’t be getting my business.