Wealth guru misled clients with 'deceptive' programs

A law professional disguised as a wealth guru has misled homeowners by offering up courses claiming to protect people's assets, a judge has found.

Dominique Grubisa assured students that programs operating under her business DG Institute were designed to financially benefit them rather than creditors.

The businesswoman worked on the promotion, sale and delivery of two programs, the Real Estate Rescue (RER) and Master Wealth Control (MWC) programs, between 2017 and 2022.

About 3700 students were enrolled in the two programs at the time.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) sued Grubisa and DG Institute for breaching consumer laws by selling misleading products in December 2022.

Justice Ian Jackson noted the weight of evidence brought forth by the ACCC against Grubisa during a judgment hearing in the Federal Court on Tuesday.

Conceptualising, drafting and implementing the structured programs herself, Justice Jackson said he was sure Grubisa was aware her actions were "misleading and deceptive".

Distressed homeowners were told the RER program could help them retain some of the value of the equity in their properties in the event of a sale, but were met with broken promises.

Students under the MWC course were assured they could protect their real estate assets from banks.

Course packages on offer at the time included incentives such as videos and reading material, an online portal with access to resources, and workshops conducted over a period of one to three days - both in person and online.

Prices varied depending on the mode of payment and the chosen program, costing students anywhere between $4500 and $9200 in fees.

Between 2017 and 2022, Grubisa delivered a majority of the seminars for the programs herself, both live and pre-recorded.

Justice Jackson said he was "comfortably satisfied that Ms Grubisa did have actual knowledge of that obvious flaw" given her education included a Bachelor's and Master's in Law.

While the judge has not "formed a high opinion of Ms Grubisa’s legal competence", he noted her professional experience as both a solicitor and barrister in previous years.

“Ms Grubisa must have known that the representations she was making were not true," he said.

It is unlikely that a loan secured by the equitable mortgage would reach the value of a client's assets for a long time, Justice Jackson said, "if ever."

"That obvious flaw is a matter of common sense which would be readily appreciated by anyone with elementary legal knowledge," he said.

The ACCC welcomed the court's findings.

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

The matter will return to court on April 23.

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