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Ticketmaster seller records subpoenaed

An investigation into how Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. handled Bruce Springsteen concerts has reached the subpoena stage.

The giant ticketing company based in West Hollywood incurred the wrath of the singer, concert-goers and even Congress in February for alleged actions that possibly forced fans to pay more than face-value for tickets through its resale operation, TicketsNow. On Friday, Ticketmaster sent an e-mail to brokers “to inform you that we are now required to hand over certain information about TicketsNow’s broker clients and their sales activities.”

Specifically, the company said it would be turning over information on who sold tickets for two Springsteen concerts that will take place at the Izod Center in New Jersey in May. Authorities also will be getting copies of all its broker contracts, Ticketmaster said.

“We are required to provide these materials in response to lawful demands,” the e-mail states, identifying the investigating agencies as the Justice Department, New Jersey attorney general’s office, Federal Trade Commission and Canadian Competition Bureau.

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It wasn’t clear from the note which of the investigating agencies had issued the subpoenas.

A Ticketmaster spokesman confirmed the wording of the e-mail and that it went to “hundreds” of brokers. The company had no further comment.

Last month Ticketmaster Chairman Barry Diller denied wrongdoing in the handling of the Springsteen tickets.

Ticketmaster is under heightened scrutiny because of its proposed merger with concert promoter Live Nation Inc. Critics of the merger, including Springsteen and others in the industry, have said it would concentrate too much power in one company.

The complaints initially came from thousands of fans who were unable to log onto the Ticketmaster site when tickets for the concerts went on sale. The fans said they were redirected to the TicketsNow resale site, where the tickets were available at a markup.

A day before a congressional hearing on the merger in February, Ticketmaster reached a settlement with the New Jersey attorney general that said the company would not direct Ticketmaster.com users to TicketsNow.com for a year. It also agreed to make 1,000 tickets available for sale to randomly selected fans who had filed complaints with the state.

In the settlement, Ticketmaster admitted no wrongdoing.

But it went further in trying to make nice with Springsteen. Chief Executive Irving Azoff sent him a letter of apology, posted on the Springsteen website, in which he acknowledged consumers were questioning “if they had an equal opportunity to purchase these concert tickets.”

Azoff went on to say the company “was trying to do the right thing,” but “we clearly missed the mark.”

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david.colker@latimes.com


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