Property-spruiking lawyer Grubisa and Master Wealth Control found to have breached consumer law

Property-spruiking lawyer Grubisa and Master Wealth Control found to have breached consumer law

Dominique Grubisa

High-profile Sydney lawyer Dominique Grubisa has suffered a new blow after the Federal Court today found that both she and her company Master Wealth Control breached Australian Consumer Law through the promotion of real estate education programs for up to $9,200 each.

Grubisa, who secured a minor victory in October last year by having a four-year ban on engaging in credit activities and financial services overturned, has been found by the court to have made false or misleading representations to consumers in the promotion and sale of the education programs which were marketed under the DG Institute brand.

The programs, known as Real Estate Rescue (RER) and Master Wealth Control (MWC), were sold between April 2017 and November 2022 during which more than 3,000 students had paid between $4,500 and $9,200 each to participate.

The case was brought to the Federal Court following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) with legal action launched in December 2022.

The court found that Grubisa - who has described herself as a lawyer, author, property educator and asset protection specialist - was knowingly concerned in DG Institute’s contraventions through her role in making the statements on video in promotional materials and program materials, and in drafting, reviewing, editing and/or approving content for these materials. 

The court also found that Grubisa knew that the representations she made about both programs were false and misleading.

“This case is another reminder that businesses must ensure statements they make when promoting products or services to consumers are accurate and not misleading,” says ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver.

“It should also serve as a strong reminder to company directors that they may be held liable for their involvement in false or misleading representations made by the company in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

“We received a significant number of complaints from students of DG Institute about the courses and the promotional materials.”

The court found a number of key claims made by DG Institute to be false or misleading.

Among them was the claim that RER students would be able to assist distressed homeowners to sell their home and retain some of the equity, whereas if a mortgagee was to repossess the property, the homeowner would lose any remaining equity in the property because “banks don’t give change”.

The ACCC argued that a mortgagee is only entitled to amounts owed to it, plus any reasonable costs of recovery.

Students of the MWC program were also told they could completely protect all of their assets from creditors by setting up a specific trust that DG Institute called a “Vestey Trust” using transaction documents provided by DG Institute. The ACCC says the transaction documents provided did not provide the level of protection from creditors promised.

The Vestey Trust system promoted by DG Institute was said to have been tested and upheld as effective by the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia in the “Sharrment” case, when in fact this was not the case.

Sharrment is a reference to the judgment handed down by the Full Court of the Federal Court in Sharrment Pty Ltd v The Official Trustee in Bankruptcy.

Relief orders and penalties against Grubisa and Master Wealth Control have yet to be declared by the court, with a hearing scheduled for a later date.

The ACCC is seeking injunctions, penalties, consumer redress, costs and an order against Ms Grubisa disqualifying her from managing corporations.

The latest blow to Grubisa follows an Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decision in October last year to set aside the four-year ban imposed on the lawyer by ASIC.

The AAT at the time said it would lift the ban despite “serious adverse findings” against Grubisa. AAT deputy president Bernard McCabe said he was satisfied that grounds existed to make the banning orders but he was not satisfied the discretion should be exercised.

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