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Golden Globes leaders propose major reforms after Times investigation

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s leadership is calling on the organization to make substantive changes, including that board members resign if the group does not approve and implement proposed reforms.

The recommendations are based on a review done by the law firm Ropes & Gray to audit and review its policies, membership requirements and bylaws following a Times investigation that highlighted the lack of Black members as well as allegations of ethical and financial lapses involving the organization. The firm was retained in March.

The board presented their findings to the group on Monday during a Zoom meeting as the HFPA, the group behind the Golden Globe Awards, faced a self-imposed May 6 deadline to enact changes in response to external pressure.

Among the recommendations, according to a four-page draft: admit 20 new members this year (up from current level of 86) "with a specific focus on recruiting Black members and building an environment to allow for their success," with the aim of increasing the membership by 50% over the next 18 months.

As well, all current members will be required to meet the same standards as incoming members for re-accreditation of their membership; the southern California residency requirement will be eliminated to expand eligibility "to any qualified journalist living in the U.S. who works for a foreign publication."

The proposals also include adding independent non-HFPA members to serve on the board, and bringing on professional management that could include a CEO and CFO, as well as a diversity equality and inclusion strategist. Other proposed changes include strengthening term limits for officers and directors.

Under the proposals, which must be approved by members, the group would revise its code of conduct and review its committee structure, travel policies and conflict of interest disclosures. Accepting promotional gifts would be prohibited.

Additionally, all payments to members who serve on committees will be reviewed.

The Times' investigation earlier this year found that the nonprofit HFPA regularly issues substantial payments to its own 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. The HFPA has said its compensation decisions are in line with similar nonprofit groups and vetted by independent experts.

The HFPA is expected to publicly announce its slate of reforms on Thursday based on the Ropes & Gray review. The proposed changes to the bylaws will be presented in greater detail to members at meetings in June and July, the group said.

In a statement, Dick Clark Productions, the Golden Globes producing partner, said, "We are encouraged by the detailed and thorough nature of the plan unveiled today by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We are hopeful the members commit to this and the actions necessary to build a transparent and inclusive future, which will have a tremendous impact on the organization and the art they honor."

NBC, which broadcasts the Globes, said in a statement. "HFPA's proposed plan is an encouraging step in the right direction. It outlines the thorough reforms that are critical for our continued relationship, and we appreciate the commitment that it demonstrates by the association's leadership. The organization's swift adoption and meaningful execution of the plan in its entirety are essential for the Golden Globes to remain on NBC."

The association first pledged to make "transformational change" in the wake of the Times investigation. Since then pressure has been mounting on the association.

Last month, the advocacy group Time's Up released a detailed plan of action, calling for a total reset of the organization, including demands for the entire board to resign and members to step down and reapply under new requirements after one year. "The insular country club membership criteria and process must fundamentally change," the group declared.

A week later, a group of more than 100 of the most powerful publicists representing the majority of entertainment talent and artists signed a blistering open letter warning the HFPA that they would withhold access to their clients if the organization did not take significant steps "to swiftly manifest profound and lasting change to eradicate the longstanding exclusionary ethos and pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety and alleged financial corruption endemic to the HFPA."

But the organization has faced a series of setbacks.

In April, Shaun Harper the diversity strategist and Judy Smith the high-profile crisis consultant and the inspiration for Olivia Pope on the ABC series, "Scandal" both brought on board some five weeks earlier to work with the HFPA, parted ways with the group. Harper had signed on to work with the association for five years

Their departures followed a 90-minute meeting with representatives of Time's Up, Color of Change and a contingent of the publicists' group, characterized as baffling and unproductive by several participants.

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