3:04pm PT by Eriq Gardner
HFPA Hit With Antitrust Suit After Excluding Foreign Journalist
Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian living in Los Angeles who has written about entertainment for a variety of publications, has filed a rather unusual but provocative antitrust lawsuit against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that conducts the annual Golden Globe Awards.
According to a complaint filed on Monday in California federal court, the HFPA has adopted membership rules that exclude qualified applicants who compete with existing members. The suit further alleges that foreign markets are allocated, and that applicants must execute agreements pledging not to write for any rival publication claimed by a HFPA member. It's also reported in the complaint that HFPA's 87 members are using the Golden Globes as a way to monopolize opportunities to attend industry events or interview "hot" movie stars to the exclusion of other foreign journalists.
Flaa, states the complaint, "seeks to enforce the right of fair procedure long applied by California to private organizations that affect a person’s ability to earn a lawful living; declare unlawful the provisions of the HFPA’s Bylaws used unfairly to deny admission to qualified applicants; and recover under applicable antitrust laws for the economic harm she has suffered as the result of defendants’ unlawful conduct."
She's represented by David Quinto, who notably was a longtime lawyer for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, the outfit that puts on the Oscars. Now at the firm of One LLP, Quinto has returned to being an outside lawyer after a stint as general counsel at VidAngel.
Flaa, who most recently has been a celebrity interviewer for Norway's TV show God Kveld Norge ("Good Evening Norway") and also posted work on YouTube, alleges that she was sponsored for membership by French and Tunisian members before other HFPA members raised concern about competition in Scandinavia. The journalist says that at one point, she was presented with an agreement committing to never compete with others in the markets of Norway and Denmark. The lawsuit details more behind-the-scenes lobbying and posturing at the organization, which the complaint emphasizes enjoys tax-exempt status. Flaa says her rejection was unrelated to her achievements but rather the result of a conspiracy within the organization, which derives a great deal of power by voting on Golden Globes winners each year.
"The HFPA not only fails to offer a fair procedure for seeking membership, it does not even make a pretense of doing so," states the complaint. "It also requires two votes of approval by the membership without providing any guidelines or standards for approving or rejecting applicants. It places no emphasis whatever on evaluating the quality of an applicant’s work. Instead, it freely allows its members to base their admissions decisions on whether an applicant might become a competitive threat to an existing member."
In a statement, the HFPA said, "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."
Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globes, is a division of MRC Media, which also owns The Hollywood Reporter. DCP is not a party to the latest action.