Media Derivatives Chief Pushes on Congress, Attacks MPAA

Makes final push to get Congress to drop ban on movie-futures trading in upcoming financial reform package

The chairman-CEO of Media Derivatives on Tuesday hinted that a lawsuit against the Motion Picture Association of America could be in the wind, even as he promises to move forward with his plan to trade movie futures.

The comments came as a House-Senate Conference Committee nears a vote to decide whether to include a Senate ban on trading box office futures in Congress’ final package of financial reform.

The ban is not included in the House’s version of the bill.

Media Derivatives' Robert S. Swagger has been in Washington to lobby hard against its inclusion.

In a conference call on Tuesday, he called it “a huge uphill battle.” Some congressional staff, he said, have not been willing to discuss his company’s position: that potential customers — not major movie studios — should decide the success of the market.

Media Derivatives’ plan for movie-futures trading was approved last week by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

However, while working hard to try to prevent Congress from acting, Swagger reiterated that his company intends to move forward, no matter what Congress does.

He said because the CFTC already has approved his trading plan, it would be “grandfathered” and unaffected by the legislation.

And he said he has made some progress against the opposition of MPAA interim CEO Robert Pisano.

“Mr. Pisano has been running around like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling,” claiming no one would use the futures exchange, Swagger said. In fact, he said, he’s been getting calls from people in Hollywood who support trading.

“We are getting a lot of support, but they don’t want to stand up publicly to the MPAA,” he said, adding that 50 percent of film money comes from outside investors who would use the futures market.

He claimed he has convinced some legislators — but not a lot of people in Hollywood — to speak up.

He wasn’t specific about the lawsuit. He said Media Derivatives had spent more than $10 million so far, battling for its trading, which was approved last week by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

He suggested that MPAA could be in violation of antitrust laws, but didn’t explain how.

Claiming Media Derivatives has spent more than $10 million battling for its trading, “We would look at all means to recover the investment,” he said in explaining the lawsuit possibility.

Howard Gantman, an MPAA spokesman, declined comment on what he described as Swagger's "wild allegations" or the possibility of a lawsuit.