A new report out of the Los Angeles Times reveals the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that hosts the annual Golden Globe Awards, is in turmoil. The story was sparked by the dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit from Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa, who accused the organization of a “culture of corruption” and claimed “the tax-exempt organization operated as a kind of cartel, barring qualified applicants — including herself — and monopolizing all-important press access while improperly subsidizing its members’ income.”
The suit from Flaa has exposed potential ethical conflicts and instances of self-dealing from among members of the organization, just a week ahead of next Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony.
“The dismissal was disappointing,” said one current HFPA member, who like most quoted in the story asked to remain anonymous. “I thought it would shake things up…. We are an archaic organization. I still think the HFPA needs outside pressure to change.”
While the HFPA has upped its philanthropic efforts in recent years (with $45 million in donations over the last 28 years), the LA Times story said that “questions persist around the insular association’s legitimacy, the qualifications of its members, and its ethics.”
The story includes interviews with more than 50 people, such as studio publicists, entertainment execs, and current and former members. Times reporters reveal that HFPA, though a nonprofit, regularly issues payments to its members “in ways that some experts say could run afoul of Internal Revenue Service guidelines. HFPA members collected nearly $2 million in payments from the group in its fiscal year ending in June 2020 for serving on various committees and performing other tasks — more than double the level three years earlier.”
The Golden Globe ceremony continues to be a lucrative enterprise for the HFPA, bringing in $27.4 million last year alone.
“It’s a beautiful idea to take the money from NBC and give it to good causes like tuition and to restore films,” one member told The Times. “But there is a spirit now to milk the organization and take the money. It’s outrageous.”
An HFPA representative told The Times, “Our compensation decisions are based on an evaluation of compensation practices by similar nonprofit organizations and market rates for such services,” and that they are “vetted by a professional nonprofit compensation consultant and outside counsel, where appropriate.”
According to financial records studied by the LA Times, in the fiscal year ending June 2020, the HFPA paid $1.929 million for its members on committees and fulfilling other tasks for the organization. The amount has been budgeted to increase to $2.15 million in fiscal year ending June 2021. Its voting body consists of international journalists, many of whom were impacted by the pandemic.
The story also points to criticisms of the HFPA over its recent slate of nominees, which included two noms for “Emily in Paris” but zero for the widely acclaimed “I May Destroy You,” plus two nominations for Sia’s widely panned feature directorial debut “Music,” including for Best Picture. According to the piece, 30 HFPA members were flown to a lavish junket in France during the making of “Emily in Paris.”
“There was a real backlash and rightly so — that show doesn’t belong on any best of 2020 list,” one member said. “It’s an example of why many of us say we need change. If we continue to do this, we invite criticism and derision.”
Read the full story over at the LA Times.