SAG hires D.C. firm to advise on subsidy

MPAA retains two sets of lawyers for upcoming battle

The Screen Actors Guild has hired a high-powered Washington, D.C.-based law firm to advise it on issues arising from the federal investigation into the legality of Canadian film-TV subsidies.

SAG engaged Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson & Hand following the Dec. 4 filing.

The federal government has launched a preliminary investigation into Canuck subsidies by issuing more than 100 questionnaires to Hollywood studios and production companies (Daily Variety, Dec. 11).

SAG annoyed much of the Hollywood establishment — including the Motion Picture Assn. of America, DGA, IATSE, AFTRA and the American Film Marketing Assn. — by joining a coalition of below-the-line orgs backing the probe. The coalition’s petition alleges annual subsidies of up to $1 billion have cost the U.S. 25,000 jobs and $30 billion in economic loss during the past three years.

The first key decision on the validity of the petition is set to be revealed Jan. 14 by the Dept. of Commerce, which recently announced a 20-day extension of the investigation. Questionnaires must now be returned to the Intl. Trade Commission by Jan. 7.

Should Commerce find in favor of the petition, the ITC will hold a Jan. 18 hearing about the extent of injury due to the subsidies and then announce its preliminary ruling in early February.

At that point, the petition would face another six months of review but it could eventually lead to the imposition of countervailing tariffs for producers who use the subsidies.

The MPAA, which opposes the filing, has also retained a pair of powerhouse Washington firms to advise on the issue.

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