Law Analysis

Dominique Grubisa faces penalty hearing in Federal Court

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Legal proceedings have continued against Dominique Grubisa in the Federal Court (Screenshots via YouTube)

Fraudulent property guru Dominique Grubisa and her company, Master Wealth Control, have been back in court in the ACCC case. 

On Thursday 4 July, Dominique Grubisa and her company, Master Wealth Control Pty Ltd (MWC), faced a penalty hearing in the Federal Court in the case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

In April, Justice Jackman found that MWC engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to the Real Estate Rescue program and the supposed Vestey Trust asset protection system, and that Grubisa was knowingly concerned in that conduct.

In May, Grubisa unsuccessfully sought to stay the penalty hearing pending an appeal. Last week, His Honour heard an application brought by the ACCC to have the personal information of people who made complaints to the ACCC about Grubisa’s business redacted from information to be provided to Grubisa and her company. Grubisa and her company objected to that but were unsuccessful.

Prior to the relief stage of the hearing on Thursday, there was another application before the Court. The ACCC sought to amend its originating application to seek third-party relief (compensation) orders against Grubisa personally as well as from MWC. This time the ACCC was unsuccessful.

Management accounts provided to the ACCC pursuant to a notice to produce showed that MWC had a net asset deficit of $500,000 as of 31 March this year. The ACCC submitted that this justified the amendment to make Grubisa liable to pay compensation to consumers who purchased the asset protection product within the relevant period if MWC was unable to or failed to do so.

James Arnott SC for the ACCC argued that the public interest (in obtaining compensation for affected customers) outweighed any prejudice to the amendment not being sought prior to the liability hearing in March.

When pressed why the ACCC had not sought this information earlier, Arnott explained it wasn’t given “sufficient focus at the time”. Justice Jackman was critical of the ACCC for not identifying from material that had been provided prior to the liability hearing that MWC would not be able to meet the redress order sought.

Not a small issue given that the ACCC is seeking redress orders in the form of refunds to consumers in the amount of $12.8 million. The ACCC seems to have really dropped the ball with this one.

In addition to consumer redress orders against MWC, the ACCC is seeking injunctions that the court imposes fines of $20 million on MWC, $1 million on Grubisa and to have Grubisa banned from managing corporations for a period of five years.

Justice Jackman reserved his decision in the case.

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