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HFPA Hires Diversity Consultant, Outside Counsel to Assist With ‘Transformational Change’

Emergency meeting was held on Tuesday to vote on whether to hire outside help

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that hands out the Golden Globes, has hired a diversity consultant and an outside counsel to assist with its “transformational change” following outcry over the lack of Black members in the group.

The group hired Dr. Shaun Harper, a leading expert on racial equity, Provost Professor in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, and founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, as the organization’s Strategic Diversity Advisor for the next five years.

The HFPA also retained Ropes & Gray as outside counsel “to conduct a comprehensive review of HFPA policies, assess our membership process, operations, governance, and review our alignment with industry best practices in various areas. The firm will also support the continued development of a confidential reporting system for investigating alleged violations of our ethical standards and code of conduct. The Ropes & Gray team will be led by Alex Rene, Morey Ward, and James Dowden. This team brings deep experience advising nonprofits on high-profile corporate governance, compliance, and ethics matters.”

The HFPA also has an in-house counsel, Greg Goeckner. In previous years, the organization had retained law firm Latham Watkins.

An emergency meeting was held on Tuesday where members could vote on whether to hire diversity consultants. Members, who met on Zoom, voted “yes.” According to one insider, no members were allowed to speak on the call and were asked to vote on the spot following a short introduction.

“We understand the importance of building a more inclusive organization and becoming more transparent in our operations, and these hires are an important first step,” a statement from the HFPA said. “We remain committed to fostering an environment that better reflects our core values, affords us the opportunity to continue as valuable members of the entertainment community, and restores faith, trust, and confidence in our organization.” 

The emergency meeting comes after at least three members sent separate emails to the board of directors accusing the HFPA’s current leadership of “incompetence” — as one put it — in handling the recent outcry over the group’s lack of Black members and what they view as lack of action to address the issues, four insiders told TheWrap.

Then, shortly before the meeting on Tuesday, Time’s Up demanded that every member of the Golden Globes group resign, as well as replace its existing board. TheWrap has reached out to Time’s Up for comment regarding today’s announcement from the HFPA. The Time’s Up list of demands is effectively a full-scale dismantling of the HFPA and the Globes as it stands today. Among its plans, Time’s Up recommended that the current management appoint an independent counsel to implement changes to membership criteria, bylaws, and policies, and select new members for the HFPA. The outside counsel will then be responsible for selecting a new board and new management.

Recent reports by the Los Angeles Times and New York Times noted that the 87-member group doesn’t have a single Black member, despite the push for diversity in Hollywood since the #OscarsSoWhite campaign launched in 2015. As far back as 2013, TheWrap reported that a Black applicant from the U.K. was rejected by an overwhelming vote. However, observers say the recent Black Lives Matter movement has made the focus on the lack of Black members impossible to ignore in 2021.

Just days before last month’s ceremony, the Time’s Up organization launched a #TimesUpGlobes protest campaign over the group’s lack of diversity. Hollywood bigwigs like Ava DuVernay, Judd Apatow and Shonda Rhimes joined in posting statements calling on the organization to make a commitment to diversify.

On the ceremony itself, HFPA member Helen Hoehne said on stage, “Tonight, while we celebrate the work of artists from around the globe, we recognize that we have our own work to do. Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization.”

HFPA president Ali Sar added, “That means creating an environment where diverse membership is the norm, not the exception. Thank you and we look forward to a more inclusive future.”