Business Analysis

Grubisa doubles down (again) after ACCC hearing

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Dominque Grubisa’s book smarts are rather selective (Screenshot via Vimeo)

Dominique Grubisa is yet again being a bit loose with the truth, as IA reports.

WHILST “Dublin Down” might have come up short in the recent Golden Slipper Stakes, Dominique Grubisa seems to have no problem with doubling down with inaccurate claims about her distressed property program.

Barely a week after the hearing of the case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against her and her company Master Wealth Control Pty Ltd concluded in the Federal Court, Grubisa was promoting a special “Easter Special” for the distressed property program sold by Property Lovers. Property Lovers is a company controlled by Grubisa’s husband, Kevin. 

Part of the case brought by the ACCC related to representations made as part of the program that if a bank steps in and takes possession, it will give no change when the property is sold.

Grubisa, who did not give evidence in the ACCC case, told her viewers in her latest webinar

“Let’s face it, there are two types of people. There are 98 per cent of people who play below the line and that means that life happens to them — they fall below the line. They blame. They justify. They excuse. So, above the line. And only two per cent of people play here, and you’re one of them. Above the line, we take responsibility, ownership and we’re accountable.”

We see very little evidence of Grubisa taking responsibility.

Grubisa told her viewers that she was going to “knock [their] socks off” and take them “into the stuff” that they [didn’t] even know they don’t know”.

In the Federal Court proceedings, Ms Grubisa’s barrister, Gregory Sirtes SC, submitted the following in relation to Grubisa’s asset protection product:

[What] we would say is that she was incompetent, but her incompetence was not to be treated as being so blithe that she [was] aware of her own incompetence.”

That sounds very much like an argument that she didn’t know what she didn’t know.

Grubisa told viewers of her recent webinar that she would be sharing knowledge from her “book smarts”. She then went on to describe her legal credentials from studying a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws and being a solicitor and barrister. Because of that, she claimed, she has “a whole lot of bookish stuff in [her] head. Statute law. Case law”.

Grubisa has for years used the same hook in her sales pitch for her discredited asset protection product.

Later in the video, Grubisa told her viewers [IA emphasis]:

“If you’ve Googled me, you see I’ve been caught in the crossfire of trying to implement change. And I do this from a place of bitter experience myself. Having lost properties, having seen my parents lose their home with a lot of equity in it. No word from the bank. No accounting of what was left over and no change given.”

The truth is, yet again, very different to Grubisa’s claims. There was nothing left over.

Grubisa’s father, Christopher Fitzsimons, was a problem gambler. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, in the five financial years from 2001, he wagered more than $14 million punting on horses — $4.5 million in the 2002 financial year alone. It was reported that between April 2003 to July 2006, Fitzsimons incurred gambling losses of $3.25 million.

Fitzsimons, then a solicitor, misappropriated money from his clients and from money due to be paid to charities from a deceased estate. In all, there were misappropriations from over 20 clients.

Just before Christmas in 2005, the Law Society of NSW obtained an order from the NSW Supreme Court appointing a receiver to his legal practice and a freezing order over Mr Fitzsimons assets in NSW.

Despite the orders in February 2006, Fitzsimons opened an account with the Commonwealth Bank styled “CR Fitzsimons Trust Account” and deposited into that account various cheques drawn in favour of his clients. He misappropriated that money (totalling $243,753.12) and used it for gambling and for personal debts. 

He had already misappropriated significant sums from others. He had also borrowed $600,000 from a client (an elderly lady) on the promise of a first mortgage on a penthouse unit in Potts Point (apparently valued at $2.2 million), which was already mortgaged to the Commonwealth Bank. The mortgage signed by Fitzsimons and his wife, Maria, was not over that unit but rather a storage cubicle in Kings Cross.  

The mortgage was never registered. In February 2006, Fitzsimons arranged to sell the storage cubicle for $30,000. While the transfer wasn’t registered (presumably because of the freezing order), the price was paid and deposited into Fitzsimons’ family bank account.

Whilst not referred to in the reported cases, the storage unit and another storage unit in the same building were ultimately transferred to British Securities and Investments Corporation on 12 May 2012 for a total of $25,000 (under dealing AG975270B). At the time of the transfer, the director and shareholder of that company was Grace Losurdo, the sister of Maria Fitzsimons.

The transfer purportedly bears the signature of James Lyons as solicitor for the transferee. The document was purportedly lodged by Lyons & Lyons Solicitors. However, the phone number on the transfer is that of Chris Fitzsimons and the address is not that of Lyons & Lyons, but rather Chris Fitzsimons’ PO box at Potts Point.

Justice Ian Gzell of the NSW Supreme Court found the “mistake” that the elderly client made in assuming the title description on the mortgage (that had been prepared by Grubisa’s parents) was for the Potts Point property was induced by the fraud of Fitzsimons and his wife.

Justice Gzell said:

It is not open to inference that either Mr Fitzsimons or his wife as solicitors could have misdescribed the property to be mortgaged by mistake and at the same time have mistakenly identified a property which was unencumbered and of clearly less value than the penthouse. The fact that the description is the correct description of the storage cubicle leads inexorably to the inference that the inclusion of that Torrens Title identifier in the mortgage instrument was made deliberately.

A storage unit valued, it seems, at somewhere between $12,500 and $30,000 is clearly not adequate security for a $600,000 loan.

Chris Fitzsimons, Maria Fitzsimons and their daughter Louisa Roberts (Grubisa’s sister) were borrowers under loan facilities with the Commonwealth Bank at the time. The bank commenced proceedings against them for possession of four properties – the subject of security to the bank – and for judgment of sums owed under the loan facilities.

Numerous court cases ensued. In July 2008, the proceedings between the borrowers and the bank were settled via consent orders under which judgement was entered (for around $3.8 million) and possession of the security properties to be delivered to the bank. The borrowers subsequently unsuccessfully sought to have the consent orders set aside. 

During the proceedings brought by the borrowers, the Commonwealth Bank sought security for its costs of defending the claim. In her decision in the security for costs claim, Her Honour Chief Justice Patricia Bergin in Equity noted that despite the bank selling the properties, the subject of the consent orders and the paying down of the debts of the borrowers (from the sale proceeds), ‘a debt of $1.5 million’ remained.

Indeed, in a letter to the secretary of the Law Society of NSW of 6 August 2008, referred to in the case brought by the Law Society of NSW against Maria Fitzsimons, Chris Fitzsimons said:

“I last paid a mortgage instalment to the bank in mid-2006. The bank commenced proceedings for possession in mid-2007, with... Judgment being entered in 2008... It is easy to see that the chances of there being a surplus on the sale are zero.”

The total of the amounts ultimately contributed by the Commonwealth Bank and the Fidelity Fund in compensation for the losses of trust funds misappropriated by Chris Fitzsimons and not recovered was over $1.13 million.

Grubisa’s claim that her parents had substantial equity in their property and that there was no change given does not stand up to scrutiny. It seems that, in relation to the “case law” in Grubisa’s head, the cases that belie her claims are not amongst them.

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