As the ACCC cracks down on Dominique Grubisa for alleged breach of Australian Consumer Law, she continues to peddle her snake oil asset protection product. David Donovan reports.
BARELY THREE WEEKS after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) commenced proceedings against self-proclaimed property maven Dominique Grubisa and her company, Master Wealth Control Pty Ltd, alleging misleading and deceptive conduct, she is back flogging her asset “product”. Grubisa, convinced of her own brilliance, doesn’t relent.
Grubisa sent an email to her database on 10 January about a livestream on 14 January, saying it would cover everything they needed to know when it came to preparing for the unexpected so they could ensure they didn’t lose control and suffer big losses if they were caught short.
In a story earlier this month, we reported that Grubisa had an end-of-year sale for her asset protection product. After that story was published, the video that featured was taken down and replaced with another.
The video now embedded in the webpage is not the one that featured when the end-of-year sale was promoted. In the replacement video, Grubisa does not make her claim that her strategies have been tested in court in the Sharrment decision (a case from 1988). She did this in the video that was taken down on 6 January.
In the video that was removed, Grubisa said:
This has been tested by a full court of the Federal Court. So, Australia-wide jurisdiction. Three judges on appeal. What happened in that case was the worst. Bankruptcy. And the trustee in bankruptcy said, well this is all a sham, no money changed hands — this was set up solely to defeat creditors. And the Court said no, this was set up as asset protection estate planning well before the bad stuff happened and it prevailed even in bankruptcy.
In its media release of 16 December, the ACCC said that DG Institute (a name under which Master Wealth Control Pty Ltd purports to trade, although DG Institute Pty Ltd is a company in its own right):
‘...represented that the Vestey Trust structure had been tested and upheld as effective by the Full Federal Court of Australia. The ACCC alleges that this is misleading as the referenced court judgment, Sharrment, did not concern a Vestey Trust and does not provide authoritative precedent or support for the legitimacy or effectiveness of the Vestey Trust structure in protecting assets from creditors.’
As we have reported previously, use of the term “Vestey” to describe the trust that is set up is itself misleading because Grubisa’s claims have little to do with the Paris-based trust set up by the parvenu Vestey Family.
Grubisa introduced her latest video suggesting to her audience that what she was sharing was knowledge and education for information purposes. Grubisa admits she doesn’t know the audience’s circumstances and suggests that they should always get bespoke personal advice from a professional for their situation.
She went on to describe her legal qualifications, repeating the mantra she has used for years:
“So, I'm going to be sharing with you what I know now. I got that as a lawyer. I went to uni. I did a Bachelor of Laws. I went back, I did a Master of Laws. I became a solicitor in 1994. And in 1996 I went to the Bar. Not to get drunk or anything but to be a barrister. So, because of that, I've got a whole lot of knowledge in my head. Hundreds of years of case law, statute law.”
Of course, Grubisa doesn’t mention the fact that she is no longer entitled to engage in legal practice nor that she is ‘prohibited from advertising, representing or implying that she is entitled to engage in legal practice’.
Grubisa goes on to trot out her regular claim that other professionals – accountants or lawyers – won’t be able to do what she does. In her latest variation on this theme, she claims such professionals won’t have the viewer’s “asset protection at its highest and best level”.
Grubisa’s problem with “the system” seems to stem from the fact she lent money to a builder ahead of the Global Financial Crisis and had it repaid (she refers to having “a little bit of mafia” blood in her as the basis for that repayment) only for it to be clawed back as a preference payment when the builder went bust. Was the clawing back a failure of “the system”? Or did Grubisa not have proper security for the money lent?
In May last year, Max Mason at the Financial Review reported that Grubisa was being sued by a client, Unity Funding, in the NSW Supreme Court for alleged negligence in a transaction where Grubisa represented the lender.
In July 2021, IA reported the involvement of Grubisa’s father in the transaction. Grubisa’s father had been struck off as a lawyer in 2012 and went on to use the fake name Chris Jackson to provide legal advice to Grubisa’s clients. Richard Baker had also reported on the matter in a story in January of that year in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Baker said in his story that Grubisa claimed ‘she had never witnessed any statutory declaration by her father using the name Chris Jackson or containing any false information’. The caveat that was lodged (under dealing AM413936J) suggests otherwise.
Grubisa likes to proclaim her expertise in debt law.
For years, the website for DG Institute claimed Grubisa was
‘...one of the small number of legal practitioners in Australia to have obtained a Master of Laws degree with a specialisation in debt law.’
It’s a claim that no longer features on the “about Dominique” page of the DG Institute website.
In a podcast by Smart Property Investment in 2018, host Phil Tarrant asked Grubisa (at 9 minutes, 40 seconds in) about the time when she lost large sums during the GFC.
“What sort of law did you specialise in at this point in time?”
Grubisa responded [IA emphasis]:
“At this point in time, I was full-on into property law. So I did, I had no knowledge around debt except for basic legal knowledge of where to look in statutes, and where to focus and what your rights were, and I just drilled down.”
Sounds a long way from claims of expertise at a Master's degree level in debt law.
In her asset protection video which appeared on YouTube for years, Grubisa claimed her product was a “done for you legal service” telling her audience that her impenetrable Vestey Trust system would preserve their wealth for their lifetime so they could never ever lose. Each time the client kicked a goal, it went into a vault and no one could touch it. No one was getting through, she said. Clients would be “financially invincible forever”.
She had looked at every way the law could get at them and attack their wealth, and bulletproofed it. All the client’s equity would be protected, no matter how big it would grow. Not only would real estate be protected but her “product” would protect cash, shares, income and superannuation.
In speaking about superannuation, Grubisa said “that is safe at law, but we might as well protect it anyway”. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has described the advice as a compliance risk and has asked those who have implemented the strategies to make a voluntary disclosure to the ATO.
After scores of media stories, Grubisa now flogs her once impenetrable Vestey Trust system as a security system with a back-to-base alarm. It comes coupled with a “SWAT team”. That SWAT team seems to comprise Zeeshaan Nordien, the now sole director of Grubisa’s former law firm (now called Assure Lawyers) and/or Priyan Fernando, director of Metrix Business Advisory.
According to Grubisa, the caveat lodged as part of her package is
“...your sign that says ‘beware of the dog’. And if they jump the fence, that dog bites and barks and the alarms go off.”
If it were not so serious, all of this would be pure comedy.
Despite claiming to be providing education and information, Grubisa repeats in her latest video her most extraordinary claims about the asset protection product again, saying:
- “This one trust protects [the client’s] worldwide wealth” [50 minutes, 36 seconds];
- Once the client has signed the documents, “it’s set and forget, and [the client] can pursue opportunities... secure in the fact that [they] can’t go backwards” [1 hour, 10 minutes, 50 seconds];
- “[The client] is prepared for the worst... and stays in control” [50 minutes, 15 seconds];
- “That's the vault. No one's getting through” [55 minutes, 1 second];
- “[Her] system protects [the client’s] wealth during [their] lifetime” [55 minutes, 39 seconds]; and
- “Would it be worth a one-off $35,000 to know that [the client is] financially secure?” [1 hour, 5 minutes, 57 seconds].
Grubisa also repeats her claim that by signing her documents, the equity in assets is protected, that a debt equal to the equity in the assets is created and that the debt (somehow miraculously) goes up as the value of the property increases. Somewhat the Magic Pudding of debt.
Grubisa clings to one proposition in her supposed David and Goliath battle with the system, telling her viewers what she says
“...doesn't make [her] popular sharing the stuff that the system doesn't want you to know.”
It seems clear from the ACCC’s media release that what it wants is for Grubisa not to tell the public their assets are completely protected when they are not.
As Grubisa is no longer entitled to engage in legal practice, why is she allowed to continue to sprout her claims to the public? Are her claims backed by professional indemnity insurance? When will the Law Society of NSW step up and protect the public?
Follow IA founder David G Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Also, follow Independent Australia on Twitter HERE, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.
- Tax Office warns Grubisa's superannuation advice not so super
- Dominique Grubisa — now it's a conspiracy of 'the system'
- Grubisa gets the band back together — well, a duet at least
- Dominique Grubisa — here she goes again
- Something is rotten in the state of NSW — Grubisa be thy name
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