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Live Nation, DOJ reach settlement over ticketing practices

Thomas Barrabi

Live Nation has reached a tentative settlement with the Department of Justice over allegations it violated the terms of a 2010 antitrust deal by pressuring concert venues to work with its subsidiary Ticketmaster, the company said Thursday.

In a 2010 consent decree, antitrust officials allowed Live Nation to merge with Ticketmaster so long as the firm agreed to follow specific guidelines regarding its interactions with music venues, including an agreement not to retaliate against venues that used other ticketing services. In recent weeks, the DOJ investigated claims that Live Nation had violated the consent decree’s terms on several occasions.

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“We have reached an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice to extend and clarify the consent decree,” Live Nation said in a statement. “We believe this is the best outcome for our business, clients and shareholders as we turn our focus to 2020 initiatives.”

Live Nation shares rose more than nine percent in trading Thursday.

Prior to the allegations, the consent decree was set to expire in 2020. The DOJ said it would ask a court to extend the consent decree for a period of  5 1/2 years. The agency said its investigation found evidence that Live Nation had “repeatedly and over the course of several years engaged in conduct that, in the department’s view, violated” the original agreement.

The DOJ also sought to add clarifications to the agreement. In addition to its original agreement not to pressure or retaliate against concert venues, the revised provisions would require Live Nation to submit to reviews by an independent monitor, conduct regular training sessions for its employees and cover the cost of the DOJ’s investigation.

“When Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, the Department of Justice and the federal court imposed conditions on the company in order to preserve and promote ticketing competition.” said Makan Delrahim, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Today’s enforcement action including the addition of language on retaliation and conditioning will ensure that American consumers get the benefit of the bargain that the United States and Live Nation agreed to in 2010.”

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The revised agreement would arequire Live Nation to pay a $1 million fine for every future violation.

“Merging parties will be held to their promises and the department will not tolerate transgressions that hurt the American consumer,” Delrahim added.

Live Nation generated revenue of about $10.8 billion in fiscal 2018.

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