Since the beginning of 2010 broker John Hudson (Hudson), currently employed by Next Financial Group, Inc. (Next Financial), racked up eight total tax liens and other debts. Some of these tax liens are quite large including on in September 2010 for $1,492,190. According to BrokerCheck this tax lien is still active and hasn’t been satisfied. While no customer complaints have been filed against Hudson and the presence of large liens does not necessarily mean that the broker will engage in risky behavior it is an important red flag for investors to consider. The risk is that the broker will be influenced to recommend high commission products or trading strategies to satisfy the liens at investors’ expense. In extreme cases brokers have even misappropriated funds or asked clients for loans to satisfy their personal debts. There is no indication that any wrongdoing has occurred in Hudson’s case.
Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client. In order to make a suitable recommendation the broker must meet certain requirements. First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. 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, only about 7.3% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records among brokers employed from 2005 to 2015. Brokers must publicly disclose reportable events on their CRD customer complaints, IRS tax liens, judgments, investigations, and even criminal matters. However, studies have found that there are fraud hotspots such as certain parts of California, New York or Florida, where the rates of disclosure can reach 18% or higher. Moreover, according to the New York Times, BrokerCheck may be becoming increasing inaccurate and understate broker misconduct as studies have shown that 96.9% of broker requests to clean their records of complaints are granted.