Maybe I'm showing my age, but I remember when discount broker JB Oxford (NASDAQ:JBOH) was a major mainstream advertiser. Its marketing seemed to be as pervasive as that of Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCH), Toronto Dominion's (NYSE:TD) TD Waterhouse, and E*Trade (NYSE:ET). Whether I flipped through Barron's or was mesmerized by General Electric's (NYSE:GE) CNBC, Oxford was there, it seemed.

Nowadays, Oxford is less conspicuous. Over the past five years, the trader's shares have gone from closing in on $20 a stub to wading in the penny-stock muck. Adding insult to injury, last year the company got swept into the mutual fund shenanigans controversy when it was accused of facilitating late trading.

With the SEC sniffing around and its auditor bailing, Oxford has been enrolled in the school of hard knocks lately. Its most recent financial reports aren't all that encouraging that the company will earn much of a passing grade.

Last night, the company posted a wider loss, as revenues fell by 16% to $4.2 million. The top line surely must feel like pocket change when one considers that back in 1999 and 2000 the company's net revenues topped the $100 million mark.

Trading essentially at its book value, all hope isn't lost for Oxford. While the discount broker has been rocked by the scandals of past management teams, the company's recent bout with obscurity may actually be a blessing as the company ponders the process of reinvention.

The shares may also have some level of support if the company is able to keep its active accounts humming along. Speaking to Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD) CEO Joe Moglia last month, he argued that consolidation will continue in the sector even as acquisitions, failures, and attrition have sent the number of discount brokers from hundreds just a couple of years ago to barely 100 today.

Then again Moglia was coming from a position of strength. His company's revenues soared by 67% on a substantial profit this past quarter. Oxford's still got a lot of studying to do to keep up with the rest of the class.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been investing through online discount brokers since Schwab opened its portal on GEnie nearly 14 years ago. He likes the sector's chances but he does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.