A Norwegian entertainment reporter sued the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on Monday, alleging a “culture of corruption” under which reporters abuse their power to suppress competition.
Kjersti Flaa filed the complaint in federal court in Los Angeles, claiming the HFPA operates as a cartel in violation of antitrust laws. The HFPA has 87 members, whose primary function is to vote on the annual Golden Globe Awards.
According to the suit, the organization repeatedly rejected Flaa’s application for membership. She alleges that HFPA members leverage their clout to obtain junkets and monopolize the market for Hollywood coverage in various countries.
“The HFPA is so focused on protecting its monopoly position and tax-free benefits that it has adopted Bylaw provisions that exclude from membership all objectively qualified applicants who might possibly compete with an existing member,” the suit states.
The HFPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (See update below.)
Flaa works as a video correspondent for various outlets in Scandinavia, and has a YouTube channel devoted to celebrity interviews called “Flaawsome Talk.” She applied for membership in the HFPA in 2018 and 2019, and though she was sponsored by current members, her application was rejected both times.
According to the suit, two HFPA members, Aud Berggren Morisse and Tina Johnk Christensen, campaigned against Flaa’s admittance, out of fear that she would disturb their monopoly on Hollywood coverage in Scandinavia.
The studios cater to HFPA members, and the suit alleges that HPFA members are able to use that clout to block non-members from getting celebrity access.
According to the suit, Flaa agreed to limit her coverage to TV, so that she would not compete with Morisse and Christensen for work from print outlets in Norway and Denmark. However, Morisse and Christensen did not believe she would stick to the agreement, and also feared that she might sponsor another reporter who would compete with them, according to the complaint.
The suit is rife with other allegations against the HFPA, including that members received substantial income from the group for serving on committees, and that one member continues to vote on awards though he is “deaf and legally blind.” The suit also claims that a Disney PR representative offered six members a two-night stay at a luxury hotel in Singapore “without any pretense of a work-related purpose.”
According to the complaint, “the members were happy to accept and the HFPA paid for their airfare.”
David Quinto, the attorney who represents Flaa, argued in an interview that the HFPA is not living up to its obligations as a tax-exempt entity. He said that he would seek a court order removing all subjective criteria from its admissions process.
“If you want to have your private club and admit only your friends, that’s fine, but don’t ask the taxpayers to subsidize you,” he said.
Update: The HPFA says it won’t bow to intimidation.
“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.
“The HFPA takes seriously its obligations as an organization and its dedication to foreign journalism and philanthropy, and it will vigorously defend against these baseless claims.”