AST Financial: the dumpster fire of a company

As an employee at MongoDB for several years, I had a bunch of shares that MongoDB was holding for me when it went public which I had to get to my brokerage account to actually sell. It turns out that the company can’t just hand you your shares, they have to go through a transfer agent who keeps the record of who owns what shares of a company. Then the transfer agent transfers those shares to a brokerage.

So several months ago, I got an email that MongoDB would be transferring my shares to AST Financial (a transfer agent). I got an email from them with some forms to return. I heard from international friends that the email address they gave to people outside the US didn’t actually work, but luckily mine worked fine.

I received a somewhat confusing snail mail from AST with an account summary, which added together my first and last stock grants and broke those out into a separate section than the total, for reasons that are completely unclear to me.

I figured that maybe their website would have a more detailed breakdown, so I tried to activate my account. Their password form was pretty badly done but whatever, banks always have crappy logins. Then we got to the “security questions,” which either didn’t actually apply to me (‘What is your oldest sibling’s middle name?’) or might as well have been yes/no questions (‘What color was your first dog?’ Black. It’s the most common damn color for dogs in the world.) Then I agreed to their terms and services and… got an error page. I tried going back to the homepage, saying “Sign up” again, and it took me directly to the terms & services. I nervously accepted, again. My account appeared!

Note that every time I have logged in subsequently, the site has presented an error page. Then I go back to the home page, click “Log in” again, and it takes me to my account.

I decided it was time to transfer my shares to my usual brokerage account. So I called AST, navigated their phone maze, and waited for someone to pick up. And waited, and waited. Eventually, the robot said that they were experiencing heavy call volumes and asked me to leave a message.

I left a message and a support person called a few hours later. Yay! I explained what I wanted and she asked to put me on hold while she looked up my account. Then she disconnected me.

After I finished raging, I called them back. After an hour of waiting for someone to pick up, I gave up and hung up. I sent the original person who had responded to emailed-in forms, asking her to please have someone contact me.

I received a response from help@astfinancial.com: the original email they sent with the forms to fill out and send back.

Luckily, the MongoDB alumni had a group where everyone was bitching and, to a lesser extent, offering advice. Apparently AST actually had an online conversion process: under Account Holdings -> Account Profile, which of course takes you to the General Account Information page, which (of course) is where you transfer shares. I clicked on the button to convert my shares and… got a page that said “ERROR. An error occurred while processing your request.” I tried going to the previous page (which of course didn’t work, back button just took me to the error page again and history was unhelpfully a zillion pages with the title “AST” so I manually put in the URL. This got me to the conversion confirmation page, where it asked if I wanted to submit to convert all shares… with a universal “go back” symbol on the button.

Playing with fire, I entered my total number of shares and pressed submit. It gave me a confirmation page… with a submit button. So I submitted again, and finally got to the real confirmation page.

I didn’t want to publish this before I got extricated from ever having to deal with them again, but now that all my shares are safely out of their hands: AST is the worst. Anyone working on a blockchain-backed transfer agent?

kristina chodorow's blog