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Expelled member of the group behind the Golden Globes sues the organization

A view of the Golden Globe Trophy on display at The Rainbow Room in New York City.
A view of the Golden Globe Trophy on display during the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Feb. 28, 2021 at The Rainbow Room in New York City.
(Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Magnus Sundholm, a former member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., filed a lawsuit against the group behind the Golden Globes in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday.

The Swedish journalist alleges that the organization terminated his membership “unfairly, and unlawfully” and “without cause, thereby depriving him of the benefits he received as a member of the HFPA,” according to the suit.

In October, the board expelled Sundholm, of the Swedish daily Aftonbladet and a member since 2008, accusing him of “fraudulent, illegal conduct that was contrary to the interests of the HFPA,” said the complaint.

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The board said Sundholm had falsely represented that he and his attorney were “authorized to represent the HFPA in matters before the IRS,” according to an email that HFPA president Helen Hoehne sent to the association at the time.

Sundholm asserts that he mistakenly misidentified himself on an IRS form submitted in connection to his filing a whistleblower complaint against the HFPA.

“The HFPA used this mistake as a pretext to discharge Mr. Sundholm to punish him for submitting a whistleblower complaint against it,” states the complaint.

According to the suit, Sundholm’s expulsion was also retribution for the actions of his partner, Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian journalist who filed an antitrust suit against the HFPA last year, accusing the group of institutionalizing a “culture of corruption” and barring qualified applicants from joining the organization. The case was dismissed in November, and Flaa has filed an appeal.

“Because the HFPA’s vindictive members could not retaliate against Ms. Flaa, they retaliated against her partner, Mr. Sundholm, by declaring his membership terminated following a carefully choreographed kangaroo court proceeding,” according to the suit.

Sundholm alleges that the disciplinary process he was subjected to was not only “unfair” but also violated the association’s bylaws and deprived him of the “unparalleled access to motion picture industry talent that HFPA members rely on in reporting for media outlets abroad.”

The suit further contends that the HFPA has declined to take similar disciplinary action against other members who have violated the organization’s bylaws for a host of alleged infractions such as “talking with the press without the HFPA’s permission and speaking detrimentally of the HFPA.”

In one instance, the complaint asserts that the organization “refused to investigate” or “take disciplinary action” following a complaint in 2019 that a member “improperly sold” tickets to a studio after party following the Golden Globes awards ceremony.

In a statement, the HFPA said it had not been served with the suit but called the complaint “frivolous” and “yet another publicity stunt without any foundation in fact or law.” Sundholm was “appropriately expelled from the HFPA when the HFPA learned that he and his counsel made materially false representations under penalties of perjury to the IRS,” the statement continued. “We look forward to being vindicated again in an impartial, legal setting.”

Sundholm’s suit comes as the HFPA has implemented a series of reforms, elected a new board, hired a chief diversity officer and admitted 21 new members in efforts to reengage with Hollywood. The litigation was filed just days before the group is set to unveil nominations for the 2022 Golden Globes.

In October, the association announced its plans to reveal a slate of award winners on Jan. 9, even though NBC has said it won’t televise the 2022 Golden Globes and a contingent of powerful publicists continues to boycott the group. A slate of studios, networks and streaming services cut ties with the HFPA following a Times investigation in February that brought to light allegations of financial and ethical lapses and pointed out that none of the association’s then-87 members was Black.

Sundholm is seeking reinstatement as well as an injunction prohibiting the HFPA from taking further retaliatory actions against him, along with unspecified damages, costs and attorney fees.


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