HFPA Rejects $2.5 Million Settlement Offer From Norwegian Reporter

Kjersti Flaa
Courtesy of Kjersti Flaa

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has rejected a $2.5 million settlement offer from Kjersti Flaa, the Norwegian reporter whose lawsuit set off a controversy that led to the cancellation of next year’s Golden Globes.

Flaa filed the suit last August after being twice denied membership in the tiny club of foreign journalists that votes on the Globes. She alleged that she had been rejected at the behest of Scandinavian members who feared she posed a competitive threat, and she also accused the group of self-dealing and antitrust violations.

A judge dismissed the suit in March, calling its claims “hopelessly muddled.” But her allegations triggered a Los Angeles Times investigation that also noted the HFPA has no Black members. That led much of Hollywood to boycott the HFPA, which responded by pledging to reform its admission process, expand its membership and add a significant number of Black journalists.

Last Monday, after several studios said the reforms did not go far enough, NBC canceled the 2022 broadcast.

The same day, Flaa’s attorney, David Quinto, reached out to discuss a settlement of the suit, which is now on appeal. In an email, he suggested that the HFPA “does not now want the distraction and expense of continuing to litigate.”

Quinto’s proposal called for a $1.6 million payment to Flaa, $700,000 to co-plaintiff Rosa Gamazo Robbins, and $200,000 to pay their attorney’s fees. The proposal also required that Flaa and Robbins be admitted to the group this summer, and called for a mutual non-disparagement agreement. ShowBiz411 and The Wrap first reported on the offer last Thursday.

Quinto followed up in an email to the HFPA’s lawyer last Wednesday, suggesting that if the offer were rejected, Flaa might cooperate with a book project about the HFPA.

“Just to let you know, a New York Times reporter has reached out to Kjersti asking to collaborate with her in writing a book about the HFPA and her experiences in trying to gain admission,” Quinto wrote. “She hasn’t signed anything yet because I asked her to hold off pending the HFPA’s response to the settlement offer she and Rosa have made.”

The HFPA board unanimously rejected the offer. In a letter to members last Thursday, HFPA attorney Robert Ellison said that the offer “speaks volumes about Ms. Flaa’s and Ms. Robbins’ true intentions.” He also noted that the deal points did not include any provisions about diversifying the organization.

“As we have told Ms. Flaa’s counsel in the past, and as we demonstrated by rejecting her prior, nearly identical demands, membership in the HFPA cannot be bought, no matter the threats that are made,” Ellison wrote.

Quinto told Variety that the settlement proposal did not include institutional reforms because much of what she was seeking to accomplish is already being enacted. However, he also said that the HFPA’s actions do not go far enough, because they still allow members to vote down new applicants. The lawsuit has sought to force the HFPA to accept all qualified members.

He also argued that it was unlawful for the HFPA to leak his confidential settlement communications.

Settling with Flaa at this stage would seemingly do little to appease the HFPA’s critics, who have latched onto the group’s lack of Black representation and its professional standards as their central concerns.

When Flaa filed her lawsuit last year, the HFPA said it had rejected her demands and that it would not “pay ransom” or bow to intimidation. Quinto noted that the HFPA had refused to engage in confidential settlement on three occasions before the suit was filed. He also said the appeal would likely be resolved by the end of this year, or early next year.

“I like our odds,” he said.