UPDATED: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), best known as the powerful voting group behind the Golden Globes awards, has been hit by a lawsuit claiming it excludes qualified applicants from membership and is focused on “protecting its monopoly position and tax-free benefits.”
The suit was filed in the US District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian journalist living in Los Angeles who has contributed to a number of European print publications as well as streaming network Viaplay. According to the suit, Flaa has twice been turned down for membership of the HFPA.
As well as the HFPA itself, defendants named in the suit include the Association’s current president Lorenzo Soria and a number of other members.
The suit claims that HFPA members – 87 journalists who write for publications around the world – are “invited to attend press junkets, film festivals, and set visits around the world at no expense to themselves (and are freely allowed to accept the studios’ largesse)” and get reserved access to “coveted interview slots with news making actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, and other industry professionals.”
The suit - which can be read in full here - claims that the group, which has tax-exempt status in the US, “is so focused on protecting its monopoly position and tax-free benefits that it has adopted Bylaw provisions that exclude from membership all objectively qualified applicants who might possibly compete with an existing member. There are no standards or guidelines for satisfying the subjective portions of the applications process and rejected applicants have no right to demand either that the applications procedure be fair or that they be allowed to appeal an adverse decision made for obviously improper and unlawful reasons.”
The Association’s requirements for admission, the suit says, “are skewed to keep new members out.” As a result, the filing goes on, “Qualified applicants for admission to the HFPA are virtually always rejected because the majority of its 87 members are unwilling to share or dilute the enormous economic benefits they receive as members.”
The action calls for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting the HFPA from denying Flaa full voting membership and from denying membership to other objectively qualified applicants.
Responding to reports of the lawsuit in a statement, the HFPA said it will “vigorously defend against these baseless claims.”
The statement added: “While the HFPA has not yet been served with this complaint, it seems consistent with Ms Flaa’s ongoing attempts to shake down the HFPA, demanding that the HFPA pay her off and immediately admit her prior to the conclusion of the usual annual election process applied to every other HFPA applicant. The HFPA has refused to pay ransom, telling Ms Flaa that membership was not gained through intimidation. Ms Flaa and her attorney are now asking a court to order her into the organisation and pay her.”
Dick Clark Productions, the company that produces the annual Golden Globe Awards with the HFPA, is not named in the suit.