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HFPA Rejects $2.5 Million Settlement Offer From 2 Journalists Who Were Denied Membership

Kjersti Flaa and Rosa Gamazo Robbins sued the Golden Globes organization last year

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has rejected the $2.5 million settlement offer from Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa and Spaniard Rosa Gamazo Robbins, who sued the Golden Globes group last year after being denied membership.

TheWrap exclusively reported last week that Flaa sought $1.6 million in damages and Gamazo Robbins demanded $700,000 plus $200,000 in legal fees, all payable over three years.

“The Board and the individual defendants unanimously rejected this proposal,” Robert J. Ellison of Latham & Watkins said in a letter to members last week. “We believe the settlement offer speaks volumes about Ms. Flaa’s and Ms. Robbins’ true intentions.”

In a statement to TheWrap, Flaa said: “Whenever a woman comes forward with allegations or is pointing out wrongdoings, she is often labeled as someone who is just after attention or money. It’s no surprise that the HFPA goes down that route.”

Flaa’s attorney, David Quinto, in a statement added, “Although the most recent settlement proposal was publicized by the HFPA, Kjersti Flaa and Rosa Gamazo Robbins won’t stoop to the HFPA’s level and don’t believe that two wrongs make a right… It obviously speaks volumes that because the HFPA rejected Kjersti’s not one, not two, but three attempts to persuade the HFPA to discuss a confidential settlement before she filed suit, the HFPA was willing to endure everything that might follow from the public filing of the complaint rather than allow her admission.”

Quinto also in an email last Wednesday to the HFPA said Flaa had been approached by a New York Times reporter asking for her to write a book about the HFPA and her experience being admitted. “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.”

Quinto also requested “a mutual non-disparagement provision” and a promise that HFPA will not retaliate “against anyone the group might believe provided assistance to Quinto or the Los Angeles Times in its exposé from last month that led to a major fallout for the group.” The provision seems like a backhanded-admission that the journalists acted as sources for the LA Times’ article alleging internal corruption by paying members to be on committees, and noting the lack of Black members in the group.

Two months ago, U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. dismissed Flaa and Gamazo Robbins’ lawsuit accusing the HFPA of antitrust violations for denying membership to qualified journalists due to an unwillingness “to share or dilute the enormous economic benefits they receive as members.” (Blumenfeld initially dismissed much of Flaa’s original suit last November; Gamazo Robbins was added in an amended complaint on Dec. 4.) The plaintiffs have appealed the ruling.

In her original August 2020 suit, Flaa claimed that applicants are “virtually always rejected … 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.

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, 2019 and 2020, and was rejected all three times.

In March, Flaa and Gamazo Robbins were among 14 L.A.-based entertainment journalists — many of whom said they had previously been rejected for HFPA membership — who called on the organization to stop blocking qualified journalists from joining and admit them as a group.