Feds Investigating SeaWorld for ‘Blackfish’ Documentary Statements

The 2013 movie “Blackfish” called into question some of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.’s  (SEAS)  practices in its Orca shows, and later SeaWorld addressed the movie’s affects on the company, whose stock price has since languished.

The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have subpoenaed SeaWorld regarding some of its statements on the movie, according to a regulatory filing on Friday, June 23.

“In June 2017, the Company received a subpoena in connection with an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concerning disclosures and public statements made by the company and certain executives and/or individuals on or before August 2014, including those regarding the impact of the ‘Blackfish’ documentary and trading in the company’s securities,” the filing said.

SeaWorld’s 2015 annual report mentions a shareholder lawsuit involving the company’s characterization of the documentary on its financial performance.

“Plaintiffs contend that defendants knew or were reckless in not knowing that Blackfish was impacting SeaWorld’s business at the time of each public statement,” the report said.

The institutional investor plaintiffs sued the company and Blackstone in regard to statements made in conjunction with SeaWorld’s initial public offering and secondary offerings.

The same filing noted that the board took the matter into consideration, among other factors, when it decided this month to accept the resignation of board chairman David D’Alessandro, who did not receive a majority vote at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

D’Alessandro has served as the company’s chairman since 2010 and served as interim CEO for several months in 2015. He will continue to serve as chairman until the end of 2017.

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The filing did not provide further details about the nature of the communications being investigated.

SeaWorld shares declined by 1% in regular-session trading on Friday. They fell another 2.3% in after-hours trading.

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