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A California judge has seen enough of a Norwegian entertainment journalist who took on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association over its tight membership rules and close association with studios. On Wednesday, Kjersti Flaa’s antitrust complaint against the Golden Globes outfit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning she won’t get another opportunity to amend her claims.
Back in November, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Blumenfeld first rejected a suit that alleged the HFPA had monopolized the foreign entertainment reporting market and excluded qualified applicants. At the time, the judge ruled that Flaa had insufficiently defined the precise market being monopolized. (“Entertainment news” was deemed too “ambiguous.”)
Since then, the HFPA has come under fire for the favors doled to its 87 members — as well as the lack of diversity in its ranks.
In court, though, the HFPA has continued to maintain an upper hand.
Flaa amended her complaint with a per se theory that would ultimately mean the organization had to be open to “all objectively qualified applicants.”
Judge Blumenfeld in his latest order rips it apart.
When analyzing the latest horizontal group-boycott claim, the judge writes that there aren’t non-conclusory allegations that the HFPA has market power. “As Plaintiffs allege, the Hollywood studios — not Defendants — control the coveted ‘access to talent’ for this narrowly defined brand of entertainment news,” notes Blumenfeld, later adding that the antitrust construct is a tenuous one. “If access to Hollywood talent is a necessary element of business survival, then Plaintiffs fail to reasonably explain how they have managed to succeed as foreign entertainment news reporters for so many years without it.”
The ruling goes into other failings, from “defining the relevant product market in an artificially narrow way” with respect to how the HFPA allegedly divides geographic regions for members, to not considering the interchangeability of the product market.
The HFPA said in a statement Wednesday, “We applaud the Court’s unequivocal rejection of Ms. Flaa’s and Ms. Robbins’ frivolous lawsuit, which was filled with nothing more than salacious and false allegations against the HFPA and members Meher Tatna, Tina Johnk Christensen, Aniko Navai and Aud Morisse.”
That antitrust standards have become very high hurdles for plaintiffs may be partly the reason why Flaa has failed. Nevertheless, absent any second look on appeal, the HFPA and its attorneys at Latham & Watkins have scored the victory in the case.
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