The broken 296 stocks: One survivor's story

marc_cohen.top.jpgMarc Cohen watched his company's stock crash Thursday in trades later cancelled by Nasdaq officials. By Stacy Cowley, small business editor


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Great Market Crash of 2:45 P.M. was an equal-opportunity collapse: Alongside major Dow components like Proctor & Gamble and 3M, dozens of tiny and thinly traded companies saw their stocks suddenly nosedive.

For Opnet Technologies CEO Marc Cohen, Thursday's roller coaster was one of the wilder workdays he's had since cofounding his Bethesda, Md., software company 24 years ago. As the Dow plunged more than 1,000 points, Opnet's share price crashed with it, plummeting from nearly $16 a share to below $6.

Cohen was out of the office at a client meeting, but caught a news alert that the Dow was in freefall. "It immediately prompted me to jump right on my iPhone and check out what was happening to Opnet," he recalls. "I saw that we had taken quite a beating."

The share price was shocking, but the crash's severity was actually somewhat reassuring to Cohen. "Deep down I did not really panic because I knew that this was something abnormal," he says. "There was absolutely nothing in our control that we could do."

And then, in a blink, the crisis was over. Opnet's share price snapped back, closing for the day at $14.99 -- down 6%, but a far cry from the single-digit cellar it temporarily tumbled into. For a company whose market cap hovers around $300 million, it was a dramatic brush with Wall Street's live wires.

Friday morning, Cohen and his CFO found out that Opnet (OPNT) is among the 296 companies that will have trades cancelled by Nasdaq and the other exchanges. There was no outreach from exchange officials about the move. Opnet's executives found out the old-fashioned way, by clicking a list in a news report and spotting their company's name on it. (To see the full list, click here.)

Cohen is relieved to hear that a glitch -- not an actual trade -- was behind his company's share crash, but now he's waiting to see how much mop-up the accident will require. Stock databases all over the Internet are still showing an artificially low Thursday intraday trading price for Opnet. That throws its 52-week price range, a metric investors often consult, into disarray.

"We're going to give it a week to sort out before we start to contact the public," Cohen says. He's hoping that the exchanges and market-data providers will be able to sift through and clean up their data. Otherwise, Opnet's CFO has a long slog ahead to get the data trail repaired.

Opnet's employees and investors stayed calm throughout the whiplash stock swing -- Cohen says none have contacted him with questions or concerns about why his company's stock got whacked.

But he's amazed that it could happen at all.

"What surprised me is that I was always under the impression that computerized trading had all these checkpoints and alerts," he says. "Trading should have stopped."

After all, this isn't the first time Wall Street has suffered a stock dip that snowballed thanks to automated trading triggers. In 2007, a computer glitch set off a cascade of errors and sent the Dow down 200 points in an eyeblink.

"What I'd like to know is, why didn't we fix it the first time?" Cohen says. "It's still broken. There's something really wrong with the system." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Questions & Answers



QHow does a florist sell more in this economy? We changed our business to designing weddings and events only, as the everyday flowers are not selling. We had to throw out too much product at the end of the week -- flowers are perishable! More
Get Answer
- The Flower Lady, Suwanee, Ga.
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.01%4.03%
15 yr fixed3.12%2.97%
5/1 ARM3.11%2.99%
30 yr refi4.04%4.09%
15 yr refi3.15%3.05%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:

Sections

New York Magazine reporter Jessica Pressler, who has been caught up in controversy this past week, will not be moving on to a new job at Bloomberg News. More

Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More

Forums in dark corners of the web sell the kinds of hacks that befell Sony. More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

The income of the top 1% jumped significantly in 2012, far outpacing inflation. Not only did this group make a larger share of the country's income, their share of total taxes also jumped from 35% to 38%. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.