Poor Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). They’re always shunned as the Oscars’ forgotten stepsister as the Golden Globes, many stars forget them in gratitude speeches, most are hammered at their event, and now… accused of being an illegal cartel and hit with a nasty antitrust lawsuit.
Those claims can really take the shine off those embossed balls of theirs, huh?
HFPA’s “Culture of Corruption”
Variety first reported the news about Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian entertainment reporter, who filed a lawsuit against the HFPA in a Los Angeles federal court claiming the HFPA “operates as a cartel in violation of antitrust laws.”
The HFPA 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.Federal Lawsuit: Kjersti Flaa vs. HFPA
In Scandinavia, Flaa is kinda’ considered a big deal with various Hollywood-centric bylines and her own YouTube channel “Flaawsome Talk.” (Nevertheless, give her points for that one at least.) She’s a journalist overseas. She’s got entertainment street cred. So, why not? She applied for HFPA membership twice — and was unceremoniously denied twice.
Why? Aud Berggren Morisse and Tina Johnk Christensen, both HFPA members, campaigned against Flaa’s admittance, out of fear that she would “disturb their monopoly on Hollywood coverage in Scandinavia.”
That’s not good for a girl trying to do her job in entertainment reporting. If she doesn’t have an HFPA membership, she’s pretty much vlogging to a few friends and family members. And speaking of friends, Flaa’s lawsuit claims the HFPA works hard in payola. Allegedly, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association pays all travel expenses to get their reporters/members to attend film festivals and other press junkets.
That’s close to $1.1 million each year.
HFPA: “We Don’t Pay Ransom.”
Naturally, the obligatory anonymous “spokesperson” from the HFPA legal team has spoken about these “baseless claims” and may not have used the best words to vigorously defend his or her client:
“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 organization and pay her.”HFPA Spokesperson Via Variety
Talk about taking the bait. Flaa accuses the Hollywood Foreign Press Association of being an illegal cartel, and this scurrilous cohort decided to rock the Mafioso jargon to prove he or she is up with the times.
The lawsuit continues to uncover claims about the payola:
- One member who was given more than $20,000 annually to assign the seating at the Golden Globes awards ceremony
- Two members given $12,000 annually to serve on the “History Committee”
- Former presidents who are paid $1,000 a month for life without “a notional requirement that they provide a service in exchange for their sinecure.”
- A Disney PR representative offered six members a two-night stay at a luxury hotel in Singapore “without any pretense of a work-related purpose.”
Yeah, if the HFPA is truly non-profit, that’s not good.
The suit alleges the HFPA requires all applicants to execute agreements pledging not to offer to write for any publication claimed by a member or any rival publication. (Essentially, if that outlet isn’t paying dues, you don’t work for them.)
Flaa’s attorney, David Quinto, is pretty much putting the HPFA’s tax-exempt status on blast. He said that he would seek a court order removing all subjective criteria from its admissions process.
If you want to have your private club and admit only your friends, that’s fine, but don’t ask the taxpayers to subsidize you.David Quinto
Someone call Ricky Gervais. I’m pretty sure he has his opening monologue material settled right here.