Hollywood Foreign Press Association Wins Dismissal of Norwegian Reporter’s Antitrust Suit

Kjersti Flaa
Courtesy of Kjersti Flaa

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Norwegian reporter who accused the Hollywood Foreign Press Association of freezing her out of access to celebrity interviews.

Kjersti Flaa sued the organization last August, saying that she had been repeatedly denied membership. In the complaint, she argued that the HFPA functions like a cartel, as its members divvy up the market for foreign entertainment coverage, and reject anyone who poses a competitive threat.

Judge Stanley Blumenfeld dismissed the lawsuit back in November, but gave Flaa an opportunity to amend her complaint. She and another journalist, Rosa Gamazo Robbins, refiled the complaint in December. In a ruling on Tuesday, Blumenfeld rejected the case again, this time without leave to amend.

The judge held that the amended complaint was still “hopelessly muddled,” and that it is the Hollywood studios — not the HFPA — that controls access to celebrity interviews. Blumenfeld also noted that, according to the complaint, HFPA members generally work “intermittently,” and in obscurity, for little pay.

“This is not market power over entertainment news reporting,” Blumenfeld wrote. “While it is understandable that Plaintiffs would want access to the non-market financial benefits of membership, they have not plausibly alleged that the HFPA provides exclusive access to the market for entertainment news reporting.”

The HFPA’s 87 members vote on the Golden Globe Awards. Flaa had accused the organization of accepting freebies from the studios, and of doling out cash to members to serve on committees, in violation of its obligations as a non-profit. The suit had sought to force the HFPA to open up membership to all qualified overseas journalists.

The HFPA is currently seeking to stave off a separate, though related, PR crisis brought on by its lack of diversity. In a story last month, which delved into the issues raised in Flaa’s lawsuit, the Los Angeles Times also revealed that the HFPA has no Black members. Under pressure from across the industry, the HFPA has since pledged to admit 13 Black members this year.

In an email, Flaa said she intends to appeal.

“It’s disappointing that the district judge didn’t see anything wrong with the HFPA’s conduct when the rest of America does,” she said. “We will of course appeal and are confident that the trial courts dismissal will be reversed and that we will finally get our day in court. In the meantime we fear that the HFPA will not make good on its recent promises to reform its bylaws and conduct to become more inclusive, transparent and representative of foreign entertainment reporters.”

The HFPA issued its own statement praising Blumenfeld’s decision.

“We applaud the Court’s unequivocal rejection of Ms. Flaa’s and Ms. Robbins’ frivolous lawsuit, which was filled with nothing more than salacious and false allegations against the HFPA and members Meher Tatna, Tina Jøhnk Christensen, Aniko Navai and Aud Morisse,” the group said.