Monday, July 22, 2024

Live Nation Antitrust Case Judge Indicates Possible Trial Start Date

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The federal judge presiding over the Department of Justice’s sweeping antitrust case against Live Nation thinks the trial can begin as early as March 2026, according to recent federal court filings.

Judge Arun Subramanian explained Thursday (June 27) in the case’s first pre-trial hearing that he hoped jury selection could begin that month, although he stopped short of setting a firm date.

One of the first items of business for Subramanian, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Joe Biden in 2023, is to rule on a planned motion by Live Nation to move the case from the Southern District of New York to the federal circuit court in Washington, D.C., where Live Nation’s 2010 merger with Ticketmaster was first approved. Subramanian said he believed his court could properly preside over the case but that he would fully consider the advisement.

Prior to being appointed to the federal bench, Subramanian was a partner at litigation firm Susman Godfrey LLP, which currently represents Live Nation in the 2021 Astroworld festival class action lawsuit. Subramanian did not work on that case.

Government attorneys said in a Tuesday (July 25) filing that they plan to bring additional claims against Live Nation, noting the new claims could include information that attorneys from Live Nation have designated as highly confidential and might ask the courts to seal.

Attorneys for the government “do not believe any of the information at issue merits sealing or overcomes the presumption of public access to judicial documents,” the filings explain, noting that if Live Nation doesn’t budge, the government will ask the judge to rule on the matter.

Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers also complained that Live Nation attorneys have delayed discovery requests and failed to “fully comply with any of the United States’s three pre-complaint civil investigative demands” dating back to October 2022.

“It took Defendants nearly a year to start producing custodial documents,” the filing reads, noting that “their responses to many specifications remain incomplete today.”

Lawyers for Live Nation called the government’s discovery allegation false, noting that “since October 2022, Defendants have spent over 200,000 attorney hours reviewing documents, produced over 600,000 documents from nearly 70 custodians, produced over 33 million observations of data, submitted dozens of written responses, and provided investigative deposition testimony from three high-level executives in response to Plaintiffs’ investigations. In addition, DOJ has access to nearly two million documents that Defendants produced during prior investigations.”

Attorneys for Live Nation added that they want “any documents, data or testimony Plaintiffs received from third parties during their investigation” no later than July 22, 2024.

Live Nation is also challenging the government’s unusual request for a jury trial instead of having the verdict determined by a judge. “If it occurred, it would be the first jury trial ever in a government-brought monopolization case,” the company’s attorneys wrote.

Outside of Live Nation, the government also says it plans to issue more than 100 third-party subpoenas to “ticketers, promoters, ticket brokers, venues, venue management companies, artists, and artists’ agents and managers.”

Live Nation declined to comment for this story.

Live Nation is being represented by longtime attorney and litigator Timothy L. O’Mara and Alfred C. Pfeiffer, both partners at Latham and Watkins. Pfeiffer is the former co-chair of the firm’s Antitrust & Competition Practice. Ticketmaster is represented by David R. Marriott with Cravath, who successfully represented Illumina against the Federal Trade Commission and secured a 2022 victory for the Louis Dreyfus Company against DOJ efforts to block the sale of Imperial Sugar to U.S. Sugar.

The government is represented by Bonny Sweeney, who joined the DOJ in 2022. Sweeney formerly served as a partner at San Francisco firm Hausfeld where she was co-chair of its U.S. antitrust practice group. In 2023, she was named antitrust lawyer of the year by the California Lawyers Association.



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