Live Nation Entertainment’s lawyers have asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the company of anti-competitive practices, arguing that it is similar to other lawsuits that were forced into arbitration and should be dealt with similarly.
A motion filed in federal court Tuesday by the entertainment giant’s lawyers called the most recent lawsuit a “nearly word-for-word copy” of an earlier case that had been forced to arbitration. The plaintiffs in that case were represented by Quinn Emanuel, which is also involved in the new litigation. In this instance, they have argued that the arbitration agreements that everyone purchasing tickets using Live Nation or Ticketmaster agree to as part of their purchase of tickets are unenforceable because they require consumers to submit to an unfair proceeding.
The arbitration agreements are, in effect, a smokescreen that serves only to protect Live Nation Entertainment from answering for its unfair practices in open court.
“The [new] agreement … requires consumers to engage in a novel and one-sided process that is tailored to disadvantage consumers,” wrote the Quinn Emanuel attorneys. “The … agreement skews the odds so egregiously in defendants’ favor through its defense-biased provisions, and is imposed in such a procedurally unfair manner, that it is permeated with unconscionability to a far greater degree than the prior … agreement.”
Live Nation’s lawyers pushed back against that notion in Tuesday’s filing, saying the updated claims were nothing more than an “improbable gambit” to get around the earlier ruling.
“This case—just like [the previous case]—must be sent to arbitration,” Live Nation’s lawyers wrote. “To say that plaintiffs’ counsel are wasting the court’s time is an understatement.”
Beyond the legal wrangling over arbitration agreements, the case itself seeks to hold Live Nation to account for what it argues are market conditions that harm consumers due to one company dominating such a huge slice of the live event and ticketing business.
“Defendants have continued to flourish by engaging in anticompetitive exclusive dealing with major concert venue operators (which are bolstered by Ticketmaster’s relationship with Live Nation Entertainment), as well as numerous other unfair and anticompetitive acts discussed herein that are aimed at eliminating and/or minimizing all competition, both in primary ticketing services and, more recently, secondary ticketing services,” the lawsuit states.
It is far from the first time that such claims have been made – Rep. Bill Pascrell has famously pursued better regulation of what he plainly called “Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s abuse of their monopoly power” in a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed. Artists rights groups, economists, and consumers filing lawsuits have also tried to push back against the company, as did the Federal Trade Commission itself, but even that just amounted to a slap on the wrist by way of a fine and extension of an existing consent decree. Even a prosecution over employees illegally accessing a competing company’s computer systems to gather critical data and gain a competitive advantage – a company that Live Nation subsequently purchased in order to end civil litigation alleging data espionage – was sidestepped via the payment of a $10 million fine.
An aggressive lobbying practice has helped keep meaningful legislation at bay at the national level and helped stop several state attempts at enacting better consumer protections. At the same time, arbitration agreements have protected it from having to defend much of its business in court – and Live Nation Entertainment and its lawyers are hoping to achieve that same result in this instance once more.