Business Analysis

Tax Office warns Grubisa's superannuation advice not so super

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Dominique Grubisa’s advice regarding superannuation has been called out by the Australian Taxation Office (Screenshot via Vimeo)

After banning orders from ASIC and Federal Court action by the ACCC, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has warned the public about the advice regarding superannuation given by self-proclaimed asset protection specialist Dominique Grubisa, as David Donovan reports.

THE SELF-PROFESSED wealth maven’s year didn’t end well. In April, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) announced it has banned her from financial and credit services for four years. Grubisa is appealing the ban. In June, the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner’s Office announced Grubisa was no longer entitled to engage in legal practice and it was considering what further regulatory action was necessary. 

In December, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) commenced proceedings in the Federal Court alleging misleading and deceptive conduct. Just prior to Christmas, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) went public and warned the public about the advice given by Grubisa advice regarding superannuation and her asset protection product. 

In February of 2021, we published the first of many stories about Dominique Grubisa’s asset protection product. In that story, we reported that Grubisa had been telling her clients that where they had a self-managed super fund (SMSF) they could mortgage the fund/its assets to the “Vestey” Trust set up as part of her “impenetrable forcefield”.

Grubisa’s claims went further. She told people if they have significant cash in their SMSF, then for maximum protection they could

‘...transfer the cash to a bank account in the name of [the ”Vestey”] Trust.’

This advice was reflected in a document provided to clients of Master Wealth Control Pty Ltd — a company that is not a law firm.   

As we reported, the ATO advised that such arrangements would breach superannuation legislation, namely the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SISA) and the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994 (SISR).

In April 2018, the ATO advised a client of Grubisa’s business, amongst other things:

  • an SMSF trustee has a responsibility to keep money and other assets of their SMSF separate from any money and assets of other entities; and
  • placing a charge over Fund assets would breach rule 13.14 of the SISR.

Now, some four-and-a-half years after that advice, the ATO has issued an alert regarding the strategies promoted by Grubisa.

The ATO said:

‘We are concerned about asset protection arrangements that claim to protect SMSF assets from creditors by mortgaging them to an asset protection trust, commonly referred to as a “Vestey Trust”.

To IA's knowledge, only Grubisa uses the term “Vestey Trust”.  

As we reported in our story in February 2021, the issues in the Vestey cases concerned a Paris-based trust established in the 1920s and the extent to which income of the trust that paid to beneficiaries in the UK was assessable to income tax under UK tax law. Those issues have nothing to do with Grubisa’s claims.  

The ATO has described the arrangements promoted as a compliance risk and noted that where arrangements contravene superannuation laws penalties may apply.

The ATO advised that if trustees [of SMSFs]

‘...they should make a voluntary disclosure. [The ATO] will take this into account when determining [its] compliance action.

No doubt Grubisa will be contacting all the people who she advised and telling them to urgently contact the ATO. Perhaps she won’t, given that she is no longer entitled to engage in legal practice. Then again, Grubisa claimed she didn’t market or sell the asset protection package as a legal service while telling people it was a done-for-you lifetime legal service.

What an almighty mess and something that should have been dealt with by legal regulators years ago. As we have said previously, the NSW Law Society has failed to protect the public.

Now, it would not be a story about Grubisa without some irony, because in a post on published three months after the ATO’s advice in 2018, Grubisa was asking her readers: ‘Is your superannuation account safe?’

In stuff you simply cannot make up, Grubisa told her readers that an examination by ASIC of tax office records found a large proportion of self-managed funds did not comply with regulations, going on to say, ‘Always listen to a trusted source and do your homework before investing’. A trusted source? Really, Dominique?  

This is the same Dominique Grubisa who was banned by ASIC for claiming to hold an Australian Financial Services Licence when she did not and who ASIC said had a habit of not telling the truth. Now the ATO has come out to warn the public about her claims.

Grubisa is not a fan of the ATO. How do we know that? Because of the content of her proposed Wikipedia page.

A page submitted by WikiDasey (who we assume is associated with the PR agency Grubisa used — Fallon Dasey) was rejected.

The reason given for the rejection was:

‘Submission reads like an advertisement and bio. Submission is about a person not yet shown to meet notability guidelines.’

The submission, still online, describes Grubisa as a

‘...vocal critic of established financial institutions, particularly banks, the Australian Tax Office and government agencies...’

Grubisa tipped two of her companies into liquidation in August having not paid debts to the ATO. One of those companies was her accounting business, DGI Accounting. In his statutory report, the liquidator of that company, Danny Vrkic, noted that on 19 August last year, the ATO issued a director penalty notice for PAYG withholding amounts (Grubisa was the sole director) and as the company didn’t have the means to pay the debt, Grubisa placed the company into liquidation.

Now, of course, Grubisa had a backup because she has another accounting practice, Metrix Business Advisory Pty Ltd. Of the shares in that company, 49% are held by Grubisa’s husband, Kevin, and the remainder by Priyan Fernando.  

Grubisa always has a backup plan. As we reported in October, when her parents were struck off as laywers, she had a backup plan for them setting up RER Lawyers Pty Ltd using the name but fake address and fake date of birth of her father’s former lawyer (James William Lyons) as a director of the company.

Mr Lyons told the Financial Review last year he knew nothing of the company. Yet Mr Lyons name was on the letterhead used by the company to provide legal advice. His was the only name on the letterhead!

(Source: RER Lawyers)

That company seems to have been established as a front for Grubisa’s father, Christopher Ronald Fitzsimons (using the fake name Chris Jackson), to continue to provide legal advice.  

When Grubisa was banned by ASIC from any function in credit or financial services, she again had a backup plan. This time it was Capital Mortgage Group (formerly known as DGI Finance). Despite being banned from all functions in a credit business, Grubisa was online again on 7 December promoting debt management services.   

The director of Capital Mortgage Group is Grubisa’s husband, Kevin. Kevin was for some years the co-director with James Lyons in RER Lawyers, a company Lyons says he knows nothing about. Capital Mortgage Group holds a credit licence. Its application to ASIC (in the name of DGI Finance) to extend its licence to debt management services is still under assessment by ASIC. Dominique Grubisa is still spriuking debt management services, but it seems now through Capital Mortgage Group.  

ASIC is aware of the fraudulent documents exposed on A Current Affair’s segment in May 2021. They know Grubisa’s debt management business altered documents to create the fiction of loans that don’t’ exist. ASIC also knows all about RER Lawyers. So how have they failed to take action about these issues?

Is it really any wonder that there is an inquiry by the Parliament Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services and also an inquiry by the Senate Economics References Committee into ASIC’s enforcement action (or lack thereof). 

When the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner’s Office announced Grubisa was no longer entitled to engage in legal practice, Grubisa again had a backup plan. She resigned as a director of DGI Lawyers (now called Assure Lawyers) and had Zeeshaan Nordien run the practice. Grubisa has continued to spruik her nonsense to the public. After the ACCC’s announcement of Federal Court proceedings, Grubisa was back online spruiking her end of year sale.

This is, of course, the person who said in July last year in this video on Vimeo (at 8 minutes, 17 seconds in):

“Ban me if you want but nothing changes.”

In the video for her end-of-year sale, Grubisa was telling her viewers about the Dunning-Kruger effect and again, in things you simply cannot make up, was suggesting those who “make the rules” sit in the high confidence but low expertise end of the curve. Another typical Trumpian response from Grubisa. With the ACCC, the ATO, ARITA and others calling out her false claims, the irony of Grubisa referring to the Dunning-Kruger effect seems lost on her.

Follow IA founder David G Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Also, follow Independent Australia on Twitter HERE, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

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