Laissez-Faire

In a letter dated Nov. 30, New York state assistant attorney general Elizabeth Block informed producers, general managers and attorneys involved in theatrical production that the state was getting out of the “notification” business and henceforth would concentrate on “enforcement” of the rules regarding limited partnerships. The state “will no longer send out a variety of reminder letters and notifications advising theatrical issuers and their attorneys of violations,” and future applications would include a statement by the producer “attesting to the truth and accuracy” of the papers being filed.

New York’s oversight of theatrical limited partnerships has traditionally been the country’s toughest – dating back, legend has it, to the time Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz saw Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” and thought it was a documentary (of course, he wasn’t so far off the mark). On the face of it, Block’s letter may be read simply as an effort to reduce paperwork. Prominent theater-district lawyer John Breglio thinks the impact will be negligible, though primarily because so many Broadway shows are mounted these days not through limited partnerships with lots of investors, but in joint ventures between theater owners and major producers.

But seen within the larger scheme of new Attorney General Dennis Vacco’s reduction of his office’s involvement in public interest matters, the Block letter also sends a more insidious message to producers: We still expect you to follow the law, but you won’t hear from us unless someone complains. Caveat investor.

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