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Live Nation settles with Justice Department, avoiding skirmish over ticketing practices

 Live Nation
Live Nation said Thursday it has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to clarify a 2010 decree that ensures fair competition in the ticketing marketplace.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Live Nation Entertainment on Thursday said it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, averting a potential legal battle over its ticketing practices.

The Beverly Hills-based company, which is the world’s largest concert promoter, said the agreement extends and clarifies a 2010 consent decree related to a settlement that allowed Live Nation to merge with Ticketmaster for $889 million. That decree was set to expire in 2020 and has been extended to 2025, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The goal of the original consent decree was to ensure fair competition in the ticketing marketplace and prohibit Live Nation from retaliating against venue owners that decided to defect to competitors.

The Justice Department said it intends to file a court petition to update the 2010 decree and called the move the most significant enforcement action of its kind in the last 20 years.

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“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,” said Assistant Atty. Gen. Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Merging parties will be held to their promises and the department will not tolerate transgressions that hurt the American consumer.”

Among the changes to the 2010 decree, the department’s antitrust division will appoint a monitor to investigate and report on Live Nation’s compliance with antitrust rules. Live Nation will appoint an internal antitrust compliance officer and pay for the cost of the department’s investigation and enforcement.

If Live Nation violates the terms set in the final settlement, it will face a penalty of $1 million for each violation.

“We believe this is the best outcome for our business, clients and shareholders as we turn our focus to 2020 initiatives,” Live Nation said in a statement.

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The Department of Justice was preparing to file legal action against Live Nation over allegations that it forced concert venues into using Ticketmaster.

The merger of the two companies gave Live Nation vast clout across the music industry, including concert promotion, ticketing and artist management.

At the time, critics of the deal feared that the combination would give the firm a lock on ticket sales and other parts of the music business. Consumer groups worried that the agreement would do little to prevent anticompetitive behavior and price gouging.

Ticketmaster has long faced criticism over the fees it charges consumers.

Earlier this year, Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who are both Democrats, sent a letter to Delrahim, the Justice Department’s top antitrust official.

The lawmakers described a “broken” ticket industry plagued by “exorbitant fees and inadequate disclosures,” and called on the agency to investigate the situation.

Live Nation investors cheered the settlement. Live Nation closed at $69.83 a share, up 9%.

Times staff writers Ryan Faughnder and Anousha Sakoui contributed to this report.


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