Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, have agreed to pay out $US10 ($13) million dollars to a competitor after admitting to hiring a former employee to hack into the rival company’s computer network.
According to a statement issued by the Justice Department on Wednesday, the five criminal counts facing Ticketmaster stemmed from a plot to infiltrate the computer system of ticket-seller rival CrowdSurge in a self-described attempt to “cut [the company] off at the knees.”
“Ticketmaster employees repeatedly — and illegally — accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence,” acting US attorney Seth DuCharme said in the statement. “Further, Ticketmaster’s employees brazenly held a division-wide ‘summit’ at which the stolen passwords were used to access the victim company’s computers.”
The hacking plot was first reported in 2017, shortly after CrowdSurge filed an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation. At some point prior to that filing, Live Nation had apparently recruited an employee named Stephen Mead, whom the company had poached from CrowdSurge in 2013, to turn on his former employer, offering data analytics and insider secrets to top executives in an attempt to hobble the competitor.
Mead’s knowledge of his former employer’s passwords was so extensive that it enabled him to log in to the company’s backend during a 2014 Live Nation summit, where he reportedly offered executives a “product review” of CrowdSurge’s operations and led a demonstration of the smaller company’s internal systems.
In a statement to The Verge, a Ticketmaster spokesperson said that the company was satisfied with the terms of the settlement, and stressed that both Mead and Zeeshan Zaidi — Ticketmaster’s former general manager of artist services — had both been terminated as a result of an investigation into the wrongdoing.
“Ticketmaster terminated both Zaidi and Mead in 2017, after their conduct came to light,” the spokesperson said. “Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values. We are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”