LOS ANGELES – A former publicist for the organization that runs the Golden Globes sued the group on the eve of its glitzy awards show, claiming it engages in payola schemes for nominations and awards.
Michael Russell sued the Hollywood Foreign Press Association late Thursday, just three days before NBC airs the annual gathering of Hollywood royalty that has been bumped twice from the airwaves over the years due to scandal.
The lawsuit claims many association members “abuse their positions and engage in unethical and potentially unlawful deals and arrangements which amount to a ‘payola’ scheme” that could be illegal and jeopardize the group’s tax-exempt status.
The court filing, however, does not list any specific examples in which a studio or producer has paid for a Golden Globes nomination or award.
A statement from Ken Sunshine, whose company currently handles the show’s public relations, said the allegations were without merit.
“This is no more than the case of a disgruntled former consulting firm, whose contract was not renewed, attempting to take advantage once again of the Globe’s international stage for their own gain,” the statement reads.
Russell’s lawsuit seeks $2 million and alleges breach of contract, defamation and fraud over the association’s firing of Russell and his partner after the awards show last year. The complaint states the pair were dismissed after a dispute with association President Philip Berk over a charity and advertising campaign with Chrysler.
The pair frequently tried to raise the issue of ethical and potentially unlawful activity to Berk, the complaint states, but the claims were ignored.