NEW YORK — When the kudos season kicks off each year with the National Board of Review’s awards, many in the biz find themselves asking, “What is the National Board of Review?”
Well, a group of former NBR members says the org is not what it claims to be but is instead operated as a “private club rather than a public charity.”
A cadre of former NBR members has filed a complaint with New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer accusing the NBR’s current leadership of not complying with “reasonable bylaws and not-for-profit requirements.”
The group, which filed its complaint last month through Loeb & Loeb, is alleging that the NBR carries an “illegal and improper executive board” and that proxy votes have been improperly used to oust board members. Dissidents further charge NBR prexy Annie Schulhof with having a conflict of interest by owning a production shingle, and with giving preferential treatment to friends and family, including free advertising in NBR literature.
Org, founded in 1909 to “support excellence and free expression in film,” bills itself as having “no commercial ties to the industry.” Its annual best-of list is viewed as an awards season indicator in the run-up to the Oscars, and the NBR is the first widely recognized awards body to weigh in with its yearly list in early December.
“The complaint involves director governance issues, bylaw improprieties, conflict of interest on the part of the president of the board of directors, partisanship toward certain studios regarding awards and gala fees and awards vote manipulation — none of which constitute ethical standards for a not-for-profit corporation,” said Susan Nielsen, a former board member.
Nielsen said exec director Bob Policastro resigned in August in protest over such issues, and director of publicity Megan Henry Pilla also stepped down.
In a response to Eliot Greene — the Loeb attorney repping the group — current NBR treasurer and legal rep Leon Friedman asserted the grievances are “full of factual and legal errors.”
“I can only conclude that your unknown clients … are intent in destroying this 96-year-old organization because of personal grievances,” Friedman said. “We are well aware of the law’s requirement, and we do follow our duties.”
He added, “The NBR has gained enormous recognition and prestige in the president’s tenure. In addition, its financial position has greatly improved.”
Taking on the charge that Schulhof should not be in her position because she owns a production shingle, Friedman asserted, “Ms. Schulhof’s company has not produced anything yet.”