According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Mark Augusta (Augusta), currently employed by Hilltop Securities, Inc. (Hilltop Securities) has been subject to at least an astonishing 19 customer complaints and one employment termination for cause. According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Augusta’s customer complaints allege that Augusta sold his clients a variety of improper products including Puerto Rico municipal bonds, interest rate swap CDs (structured CDs), and other unsuitable debt securities.
In May 2015 Augusta’s then employer Wedbush Securities Inc. (Wedbush Securities) terminated Augusta after a client filed a complaint against him.
In February 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Augusta violated the securities laws by, among other things, engaged in unauthorized and unsuitable investments made by the financial advisor in June 2014. The claim alleged $398,832 in damages and is currently pending.
In August 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Augusta violated the securities laws by, among other things, making unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentations and omissions, negligence, and violations of California securities laws. The claim alleged $97,774 in damages and is currently pending.
In July 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Augusta violated the securities laws by, among other things, misrepresentation by omission with respect to the disclosure of representative’s regulatory and disciplinary history, unsuitable recommendations, and financial abuse of an elder. The claim seeks $375,000 in damages and is currently pending.
Brokers are required under the securities laws to treat their clients fairly. This obligation includes the duties to disclose material risks of the investments they recommend and to present products, particularly complex or confusing products, in a fair and balanced manner that allows the client to evaluate the recommendation. Another important obligation advisors have is to make only suitable recommendations for investments to the client. There are many investments that are not appropriate for the majority of investors or for certain investors given their risk tolerance, age, and other factors. Advisors should not present these investment options to clients. There are two screens that advisors must employ to determine whether an investment is suitable for a client. First, there must be a reasonable basis for the recommendation – meaning that the product has been investigated and due diligence conducted into the investment’s features, benefits, risks, and other relevant factors. The advisor must conclude that the investment is suitable for at least some investors and some securities may be suitable for no one. Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.
According to newsources, a study revealed that 7.3% of financial advisors had a customer complaint on their record when records from 2005 to 2015 were examined. Brokers must publicly disclose reportable events on their BrokerCheck reports that include customer complaints, IRS tax liens, judgments, investigations, terminations, and criminal cases. In addition, research has show a disturbing pattern with troublesome brokers where brokers with high numbers of customer complaints are not kicked out of the industry but instead these brokers are sifted to lower quality brokerage firms with loose hiring practices and higher rates of customer complaints. These lower quality firms may average brokers with five times as many complaints as the industry average.
Augusta entered the securities industry in 1986. From January 2011 until May 2015 Augusta was registered with Wedbush Securities. Since May 2015 Augusta has been associated with Hilltop Securities out of the firm’s Del Mar, California office location.
Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. At Gana Weinstein LLP, our attorneys are experienced representing investors who have suffered securities losses due to the mishandling of their accounts. Claims may be brought in securities arbitration before FINRA. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.