The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) was able to have an antitrust suit filed by Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa, who accused the organization behind the Golden Globe Awards of antitrust violations and a "culture of corruption" that unlawfully denied her membership despite fulfilling all the requirements for admission, thrown out.
The defendants, which include members Aud Berggren Morisse, Tina Johnk Christensen, Aniko Skorka Navai and Meher Tatna, filed a motion to dismiss the original August filing by Flaa, which the court granted on Nov. 20, according to filings obtained by TheWrap.
"Plaintiff's right of fair procedure claim and declaratory relief claim are DISMISSED without leave to amend," Judge Stanley Blumenfeld wrote in the dismissal. "Plaintiff's antitrust claims are DISMISSED with leave to amend. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint within fourteen (14) days of this order."
In a statement to TheWrap, Flaa's lawyer David Quinto said, "we're obviously disappointed that the Court did not allow Kjersti Flaa to seek relief under the California right of fair procedure claim because it stood to benefit all foreign entertainment reporters unfairly excluded from membership in the HFPA but will appeal the Court's ruling when we can. In the meantime, Kjersti will pursue her declaratory relief claim in another court and will amend her existing complaint to address the Court's criticism of the antitrust claims as pleaded."
Flaa, an L.A.-based Norwegian journalist who has represented Norwegian outlets like TV2 and Dagbladet for more than a decade, applied for membership in 2018 and 2019 and was rejected both times.
"The HFPA is so focused on protecting its monopoly position and taxfree benefits that it has adopted Bylaw provisions that exclude from membership all objectively qualified applicants who might possibly compete with an existing member," according to the original suit. "There are no standards or guidelines for satisfying the subjective portions of the applications process and rejected applicants have no right to demand either that the applications procedure be fair or that they be allowed to appeal an adverse decision made for obviously improper and unlawful reasons."
In a statement, HFPA called Flaa's complaint an attempted "shake down," and disputed the accusations. "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 statement said.
In her suit, Flaa claimed that applicants are "virtually always rejected because the majority of its 87 members are unwilling to share or dilute the enormous economic benefits they receive as members. Because the HFPA's members will not admit anyone who might possibly compete with an existing member, either by selling to the same publications or to competing publications, the average age of HFPA members has steadily increased."
She also claimed that she had been denied access to industry screenings and events, exclusive interviews with talent, as well as all-expenses-paid trips to film festivals and junkets around the world. Plus, every member save one is on the company's payroll, and 20 of the 87 members serve on the chair committees for which each member is a paid a four-figure monthly salary, the lawsuit said.
As TheWrap exclusively reported, the HFPA rejected all five applicants for membership, all of whom met the HFPA criteria including two support letters from existing members, four clippings of their work from the last year.
A spokesperson for the HFPA has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.