Definition of 'Cross Trade'
A practice where buy and sell orders for the same stock are offset without recording the trade on the exchange, which is outlawed on most major stock exchanges. This also occurs when a broker executes both a buy and a sell for the same security from one client account to another where both accounts are managed by the same portfolio manager.
Investopedia explains 'Cross Trade'
Typically, this is yet another way for a broker to rip you off. When the trade doesn't get recorded through the exchange, there is a good chance that one client didn't get the best price.
However, cross trades are permitted in very selective situations such as when both the buyer and the seller are clients of the same asset manager. The portfolio manager can effectively "swap out" a bond or other fixed income product from one client to another and eliminate the spreads on both the bid and ask side of the trade. The broker and manager must prove a fair market price for the transaction and record the trade as a cross for proper regulatory classification.
The key point is that the asset manager must be able to prove to the SEC that the trade was beneficial to both parties before executing a cross trade.