11:23am PT by Gary Baum
Eva Longoria’s "Philanthropreneurs" Sued by Former Business Partners
The two women at the center of a February investigation published in The Hollywood Reporter that exposed financial irregularities involving a charity connected to Eva Longoria have been sued in Los Angeles Superior Court. Their former business partners allege fraud, breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
María Bravo and Alina Peralta run Global Gift Foundation (GGF), which had touted itself as a purely philanthropic endeavor, through a complex web of four non-profit and for-profit entities in Beverly Hills and Malaga, Spain.
Bravo and Peralta were sued on Apr. 27 by the principals of Optikal Noize, a firm based in L.A. that specializes in partnerships between nonprofits and luxury brands. At the heart of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, Andreas Kutzer and Nancy Epao, claim they arranged for such a deal for 2014 between jewelry brand Harry Winston and Global Gift Foundation. Kutzer and Epao say that the one-year deal, worth $600,000, fell through because the GGF was not, as it presented itself, properly registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization to receive tax-deductible contributions – and Optikal Noize lost out on its 10 percent commission.
Bravo and Peralta did not respond to THR’s request for comment on the suit. Trevor Neilson, Longoria’s philanthropic advisor and the head of her Eva Longoria Foundation, which is mentioned repeatedly in the court filing, tells THR: "We are deeply displeased that the Eva Longoria Foundation has been dragged into a business dispute in which neither Ms. Longoria nor her foundation are defendants. It is unfortunate that Eva’s name and the good work of her charitable foundation are referred to repeatedly in the complaint and are being used to elevate the visibility of a business dispute between third parties."
The suit provides a rare glimpse into how the typically hidden world of luxury branding relationships works. An exhibit attached to the suit, for instance, is a sponsorship agreement between Harry Winston and GGF. It delineates, among other things, how long Longoria may keep the jewelry she would be wearing for the cause (no longer than two days following any GGF event) and how many representatives from Harry Winston can sit at her table (two).
In February, THR detailed troublesome accounting questions and an opaque business model practiced by Bravo and Peralta, who argued that their approach is simply an honest, next-generation version of capitalism-minded altruism. Since THR's story ran, GGF, whose annual galas are held everywhere from Paris and Dubai to Mexico City, has withdrawn from its American expansion plans. Its website had previously listed a slate of 2015 events in Los Angeles and Miami.
THR’s reporting found no wrongdoing by Longoria. (Nonprofit experts did, however, question her oversight culpability as the abiding public face of, and key fundraiser for, Global Gift.) She has continued to publicly associate herself with the pair, her longtime friends, on social media, despiteTHR’s revelations.