The group claims The Michael Russell Group committed fraud by making unsubstantiated allegations, including accusing members of accepting “payola.”
The group behind the Golden Globes is blasting back at their former publicist charging his lawsuit filed three days before this year’s telecast was part of a “campaign to hold the (Hollywood Foreign Press Association) and (its president Philip) Berk up to ridicule.”
The HFPA filed a counter lawsuit Monday against The Michael Russell Group that says Russell and his associate Stephen Locascio, and others, breached their contract to publicize the Golden Globes and the group by violating a confidentiality clause and committed fraud by making unsubstantiated allegations, including the charge that the HFPA accepted “payola.”
The counter-suit also details why the HFPA did not renew Russell’s contract as their publicist after 17 years. It says that allegations came to the attention of the HFPA and its board that Russell was involved with the group Stars for a Cause, which the suit says was the subject of a number of lawsuits charging they engaged in fraud. Even though all of those suits were dropped, settled or did not result in prosecution, the HFPA says that was enough for them to decide not to renew Russell’s contract.
The suit also says allegations in Russell’s suit filed in late January in L.A. Superior Court that Berk took money from NBC as a payment for helping with the Chrysler deal are completely false, as was a charge that Berk sought money that the charity was supposed to give to Haiti. “Any such suggestion is contrary to the truth and calculated solely to embarrass Berk and the HFPA,” says the suit.
Chrysler made a deal with NBC for $2 million of advertising and product placement on the Globes telecast which tied in with the charitable efforts of Stars For a Cause.
The counter-suit goes into detail about Russell’s relationship with Stars for a Cause, and in particular a deal involving Chrysler. It says the HFPA did not know the extent to which Russell was simultaneously involved with the charitable group, or that ‘Stars’ was “involved in several lawsuits that accused them of falsely promising access to stars.”
The suit also says that Russell and Locascio improperly implied to potential clients that they could introduce them to then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a friend of a HFPA member. The suits says the HFPA member, Frances Schoenberger, learned that LoCascio had made “misrepresentations” without her knowledge.
The suit also alleges that Russell improperly tried to charge InStyle, a sponsor of the awards show, $10,000 for the loan of furniture and placement in the sponsors lounge, which was “against HFPA policy.”
In any case, says the suit, Russell was working “at will” for the HFPA which means they had the right to terminate his services at any time they chose.
A call to an attorney representing the Michael Russell Group seeking their comment was not immediately returned.