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January 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Throughout its existence, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which stages the annual Golden Globes awards ceremony has been dogged by allegations that members sell their votes to studios, accept lavish gifts from them and engage in other unethical conduct. For the past 17 years, questions about those allegations have been fielded by the organization’s chief publicist, Michael Russell. Now Russell is making those allegations — and more — himself in a $2-million lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday. In the lawsuit, first reported by, Russell charged that HFPA members “perpetrate a fraud on the public, to which HFPA holds itself out as a charitable organization dedicated to recognizing excellence in film.” Moreover, he alleged, many of the group’s practices are patently illegal in that the members “profit from their association in the nonprofit corporation and violate federal communications law prohibiting hidden ‘payola’ schemes.” Russell also made available to TheWrap a copy of a letter he sent to HFPA President Philip Berk one month before resigning from the organization last March in which he warned that unless the organization cleaned up its practices, it could jeopardize its $26-million television deal with NBC. The lawsuit comes just days before Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony and raises questions about how NBC will deal with it during the telecast.