The brouhaha surrounding the recent New York Times article examining Live Nation Entertainment’s behavior since its merger with Ticketmaster – particularly the tidbit where the company may be in the crosshairs of the U.S. Department of Justice for its alleged anti-competitive practices in the space (in violation of a consent decree it entered at the time of the merger) – continue to unfold as the summer concert season approaches. Now, a Live Nation stockholder has filed a complaint in California alleging that she and other stockholders were damaged due to undisclosed material facts about the company’s operations.
Kathryn A. Poser filed the complaint in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on April 18, according to Legal NewsLine. The complaint names the company as well as Officers Michael Rapino, Joe Berchtold and Jared Smith and alleges violations of the Securities Exchange Act.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that she and other class members have suffered significant losses and damages as a result of defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions in making false and misleading statements about the company’s business and operations. The suit states Live Nation’s stock fell almost 10 percent per share in April after the publication of a New York Times article that stated Live Nation failed to abide by an antitrust consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice after it acquired Ticketmaster.
After the article’s publication on Sunday, April 1, Live Nation stock dropped $3.97 to $38.17 on April 2, and then down to 36.61 a day later. It has since climbed back to $39.56 per share as of the close of the market on Friday, but it is still below its $42.14 price at market close on March 29, and well off its high of $48.59 in late February.
The article in the Times went into deep detail regarding the incongruity of having one company serve as both the largest concert promoter in the land and the largest ticketing provider, a marriage which has not led to reduced fees due to efficiency of scale, but rather ratcheted both ticket prices and service fees ever-higher. Most notably, the reporting by Ben Sisario and Graham Bowley brought out allegations that venue operators fear retribution – whether threats are made or not – if they opt against using the ticketing vendor owned by the promotional giant.
“The Consent Decree was supposed to prevent Live Nation from using its strength in live entertainment to foreclose competition in ticketing,” Beau Buffier, the chief of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Antitrust Bureau, told The Times. “But it is now widely seen as the poster child for the problems that arise when enforcers adopt these temporary fixes to limit the anticompetitive effects of deeply problematic vertical mergers.”