Claiming that he deliberately made false statements about the company, third-party ticket marketplace TicketNetwork this week sued David Fay for defamation for allegedly damaging comments the president and CEO of Hartford’s Bushnell Center made about TicketNetwork in front of a Connecticut state legislative committee, and to a local newspaper.
In late February, during a public hearing held by the General Assembly’s General Law Committee concerning proposed ticketing legislation, Fay appeared to accuse TicketNetwork of creating software “bots,” programs that can quickly and surreptitiously scoop up large blocks of tickets, which are illegal in several states.
During the hearing, Fay said that one of TicketNetwork founder and CEO Don Vaccaro’s “software companies designs systems that can attack the primary box office, so on the first day of sale, the moment the tickets go on sale, the moment that switch is flipped, thousands of virtual buyers go on line. They’re all his buyers, often grabbing as much as 30 percent of the available inventory. Then they weed through them over the next hour or so and take the very best tickets they can — and this is on a hot show I’m talking about — so they wind up then turning around and making those available at their own pace, watching the market, seeing where the price is, charging often five, six, eight, ten times, and that’s on a hot show.”
Fay said that the company’s practices place “holds” on tickets, which essentially shut out other buyers from obtaining tickets, a charge the lawsuit, and Vaccaro, vehemently denies.
“Contrary to Mr. Fay’s statements, TicketNetwork operates as a marketplace for sellers, including firms, box office promoters, licensed ticket sellers, and individuals, who have tickets they wish to sell, but TicketNetwork does not own or hold the tickets during any part of the transaction,” the lawsuit states.
TicketNetwork filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in Hartford yesterday, April 5, and seeks damages; a court order that Fay retract statements he made to the General Law Committee; and an order that Fay send a letter to the Journal Inquirer newspaper “correcting the false testimony and false statements” Fay made.
Vaccaro called Fay’s comments “completely reprehensible” and said in a statement that Fay allegedly tried to mislead legislators about the company. The Bushnell and other venues in the state oppose the ticketing bill, in part because it seeks to regulate paperless tickets. TicketNetwork, other secondary ticket companies and consumers groups support the bill because it will ensure that fans continue to have an open marketplace to buy and sell tickets.
“David Fay made multiple, false statements about TicketNetwork and tried to mislead Connecticut legislators on a bill that is designed to protect the rights of ticket buying consumers,” Vaccaro said.
“The Bushnell’s attempt to secure a business advantage by giving false testimony to a government committee, and by giving false statements to a newspaper, was intended to cause substantial injury to competitors, including TicketNetwork, because it seeks to interfere with TicketNetwork’s ability to facilitate the sale of tickets independently of the Bushnell,” the lawsuit states.
Fay also contrasted Vaccaro to “honest brokers,” which gives the impression Vaccaro is dishonest. And, in a March story in the Journal Inquirer, Fay repeated similar allegations in a report which states “that TicketNetwork uses its computers to game the Bushnell’s system by putting a temporary hold on those seats – blocking customers at the Bushnell website from buying them and hoping somebody else will buy them for the marked-up price. Once somebody seeks to buy the tickets through TicketNetwork, he added, the company completes the sale and turns a profit.”
“The above-referenced statement by Mr. Fay was, and is, false because TicketNetwork does not use its computers to put a temporary hold on seats, or tickets, or otherwise buy, order, possess or control tickets, but rather TicketNetwork operates as a marketplace in which those who have tickets can sell them to those wishing to buy tickets,” the lawsuit states.
Vaccaro said that Fay’s comments were especially hurtful considering The Bushnell’s positive reputation in the community, in part due to Fay’s leadership. “I think The Bushnell is a wonderful cultural institution. Under Fay’s executive direction, The Bushnell has undertaken the management of Rentschler Field and the SS&C SummerWind Performing Arts Center, as well as the lucrative ticketing contracts that each venue carries. I would expect more from the largest arts organization in Connecticut, and a non-profit executive who garners an annual salary of more than $300K.”
Fay did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit, but in a story in the Hartford Courant he said the Bushnell will “vigorously” defend itself. He added that he believes the lawsuit was filed to distract attention away from a discussion on the business practices in the secondary ticket market.
“We are not afraid of his lawsuit,” Fay told the Courant. “We intend to defend ourselves vigorously…We are anxious to pull back the curtain on what these online brokers are conducting on a daily basis.”
TicketNetwork is the parent company of TicketNews.