Though past merger talks were never consummated, online stockbrokers E*Trade and TD Ameritrade are again in "serious discussions" over a union, the Wall Street Journal reports. A consolidation would create a dominant player in online trading, reducing competition and perhaps ratcheting up costs for consumers. One source estimates the company could be worth $20 billion.
Ameritrade has been under public pressure from investors to explore a merger with E*Trade, whose mortgage portfolio has reportedly suffered in the current credit crunch. The sides are currently focused on a common strategy—where Ameritrade has worked to keep trading costs low, E*Trade's objectives have been more diverse, including owning its own bank. (Read more E Trade stories.)