Entertainment law firms San Francisco-wide, not to mention the NYC and LA hubs, have been abuzz with controversy in the face of Norwegian reporter KjerstiFlaa’s lawsuit against this iconic Hollywood institution. As a long-time operator with decades of experience in the US entertainment landscape, our very own Brandon Blake of BLAKE & WANG P.A has key thoughts on this fascinating antitrust lawsuit- and can’t help but come out supporting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Flaa’s lawsuit and complaint

The crux of the suit hinges around claims that HFPA members have used their ‘clout’ to form a monopoly. Flaa claims she has been denied membership to the organization purely because other members fear competition for freelance work in Denmark and Norway.

On the surface, that indeed casts a negative light on the HFPA. Everyone deserves their ‘fair go’ at making a name for themselves. The question, however, lies in whether there’s any truth to the claim.

The HFPA as a Hollywood institution

There’s no doubt that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is an iconic part of the entertainment landscape in Hollywood. While laymen probably recognize them from their role in the Oscars, they have a widespread presence in entertainment circles.

Are they a monopoly, however? Is it truly impossible to work as a reporter in Hollywood without membership? Flaa’s own career belies this. Is she not, after all, a successful entertainment journalist with an established reputation despite not having membership in the HFPA? We can’t help but echo this commentary from an HFPA source:

“Yes, membership in the HFPA conveys reputational and other benefits upon its members. But Flaa loudly proclaims that reporters like her have had substantial success without becoming HFPA members. These proclamations confirm that the HFPA can in no way control the output of reporting of ‘entertainment news.'”

In short, the claims of a monopoly are pretty ridiculous.

What the HFPA says

As one of the top entertainment law firms Los Angeles trusts we would, of course, not want to speculate on an open legal matter in which we are not involved. So we’re merely reflecting based on what details we have from the press.

In a scathing retort to the claims made by Flaa’s legal team, the HFPA raises worrisome concerns of “demonstrated ageism (and) history of racist remarks.”

They’ve also sought to have the case dismissed with prejudice, a bold move suggesting they believe they are in the right. The HFPA raises an alleged ethnic slur used toward recently-deceased group president Lorenzo Soria. They also claim there is, “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.”

In conclusion- and in favor of the HFPA

It’s hard not to draw a picture quite different from that painted by Flaa’s attorneys. The idea that membership to one institution is a stumbling block in a successful journalism career is laughable. What’s not so laughable is a Hollywood Institution like the HFPA protecting itself and upholding its standards of conduct. Due process is a key part of joining any organization.

More importantly, institutions that establish themselves with expected codes of conduct have a right to examine the behavior of prospective members and call into question any unacceptable breeches. No one slinging easy insults need to be indulged in 2020, after all. Provided processes are fair, factual, and transparent, it’s to be praised, not condemned, that an institution cares about standards of behavior, especially where journalistic integrity can be called into question.

We at BLAKE & WANG P.A await the findings of the courts on this matter with great interest.

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