The New York Attorney General's office has levied a $25,000 fine against the Shubert Organization for failing to legally list its ticket sellers under the ticket distributor registration law. The fine against Broadway's largest theatre operator resulted from a continuing investigation the state office is conducting regarding illegal ticket-sales practices in the entertainment industry.
Attorney General Dennis Vacco has charged Shubert with not filing box office employee lists from Oct. 23, 1995 to April 7, 1997. Shubert owns 16 Broadway theatres which host some of the Great White Way's most successful shows, including "Phantom of the Opera," "Chicago," "Miss Saigon," "Les Miserables," "Jekyll & Hyde," and "Cats."
Shubert resumed filing the mandatory listings with the Attorney General's office only after Vacco issued revised registration forms to all entertainment venues covered under the law, according to David Corvette, a press spokesperson for Vacco's office.
Gerald Schoenfeld, the Shubert Organization's chairman, admitted no wrongdoing in signing the agreement to both pay the $25,000 fine‹which Corvette said was "a negotiated amount"‹and to register ticket sellers on a timely basis in the future.
The registration law‹part of the state Arts and Cultural Affairs Law‹has been on the books since 1965.
"Ticket distributor registration enables us to know which ticket sellers are working in what venues, and to keep track of them if they switch jobs to another box office," Vacco said.
Vacco said he has stepped up enforcement of the law as part of his broad investigation into diversion of tickets from box office to brokers, who then can illegally scalp tickets, i.e., sell them at inflated prices. Ticket sellers also have been known to accept illegal gratuities from brokers in return for choice seats‹a practice known as "ice." Sellers caught doing so face suspension or cancellation of their registration.
New York state law prohibits the resale of tickets to entertainment events for more than the greater of $5 or 10% over the established price, plus lawful taxes.
"We're not singling out any particular theatre," Corvette told Back Stage. "We're looking at the practices of all box offices at every entertainment venue," going beyond Broadway to concert and sports events.
As for the Broadway investigation, Corvette said, "I can't get into the investigatory techniques we're doing, but it involves everything from interviewing employees and leaders of theatre organizations to looking at documents."
Lee Silver, a spokesman for the Shubert Organization, told Back Stage that the firm had no comment on the fine or the investigation.