Price Attack’s ex-lawyer will be struck off for professional misconduct

By Sarah Stowe | 02 Dec 2020 View comments

Former Price Attack legal counsel Juliette Wright will be struck off the roll of legal practitioners for misappropriating funds.

The Courier-Mail reports Wright inappropriately used $75,600 paid to her by franchisees in Queensland, Canberra and Western Australia. The funds were the accumulation of six invoices requesting payments of up to $33,000.

Justice Martin Daubney, president of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, said Wright’s actions were “palpably and obviously dishonest conduct’’, and recommended her removal from the state’s register of legal practitioners, The Courier-Mail reported.

Price Attack Salon’s CEO John Pascoe confirmed Juliette Wright worked for the Brabus group from 2015 to 2017 as in-house counsel.

Pascoe said it was anomalies with figures from the sale of a franchise in 2017 that raised concerns leading to the Brabus Group instigating an investigation with external solicitors, law enforcement and franchisees.

“Ms Wright had settled the contract, however the settlement monies, the price of the contract of sale to the money transferred was substantially different,” he told Inside Franchise Business Executive. “This started the business asking questions of Juliette Wright which led to the discovery of more discrepancies. This coincided with the end of her two-year contract.

“With the investigation’s conclusion, the Brabus Group continued to work with external solicitors and law enforcement to have Ms Wright prosecuted and ordered to return all the funds.”

He said it was believed all monies owing to the Brabus Group had been repaid however the franchisees were still entitled to more funds and were proceeding through the Fidelity Guarantee Fund to retrieve the balances owing.

Since taking over as CEO earlier this year, Pascoe has put in place a number of checks and balances to prevent a repeat of this situation.

“There are now three approval stages in the business,” he said. “Firstly, the sign off with three signatures (CFO, CEO, director) for all documentation with a monetary value (e.g. contract of sales). Secondly all banking has three approvers needed for funds to be transferred over $1000 and lastly a full independent audit of the financial areas for stronger governance.

“It is a sad day when the person you have entrusted to be the conduit for legal matters within your organisation puts themselves above the law and breaks it. This in no way reflects on our franchisees. It, in fact, goes to show the strength of their character and their honesty because they paid invoices because the lawyer instructed them to.  They most likely believed the invoice was correct and thought they were doing the right and honest thing.”

In 2016 Wright had previously been the solicitor for the short-lived Franchise Retail Brands, helmed by Sean Corbin, before launching her own business Wright Franchising.

According to the Australian Financial Review, Wright then transferred her company to Phoenix Franchising, a new company she co-owned with Corbin.

In 2018 Corbin told AFR the name came from Juliette Wright’s legal firm, Phoenix Lawyers, which was reportedly deregisterd by ASIC in 2016.

According to Queensland Law Society’s, in June 2020 Wright was charged with criminal fraud offences of alleged misappropriation of nearly $900,000 while a director of Phoenix Lawyers.