SeaWorld Under Investigation From Federal Authorities Over ‘Blackfish’

SeaWorld Entertainment has disclosed that it was subpoenaed by the Justice Department with regards to an investigation that was being conducted about disclosures made concerning the ‘Blackfish’ documentary impact and trading in the securities of the company. The investigation revolves around the public statements and the disclosures that were made by the firm, certain executives as well as individuals in the days preceding August 2014.

In 2013 following the release of the ‘Blackfish’ documentary, the marine park operator was widely criticized since in the film the capture and the public exhibition of the killer whales came across as being inherently cruel. Animal rights activists argue that keeping the killer whales in small tanks amounts to mistreatment since their natural environment is the wide open seas. As a result the animal rights activists says the killer whales have a short lifespan when in captivity compared to those in the wild. When the ‘Blackfish’ documentary was initially released, the marine park operator described the film as being a piece of propaganda that was emotionally manipulative, false and misleading.

No more breeding

Last year the marine park operator, which has been registering a decline in revenues for the past three years disclosed that it would halt the breeding of killer whales while in captivity. SeaWorld has also redesigned its shows with a view to having them depict the killer whales thriving in their natural environment instead of exhibiting them while performing tricks.

And following the release of the documentary and the campaign against it by PETA, an animal rights organization, SeaWorld also engaged in a public relations exercise to enhance its image. The marine park operator has for instance ran ads which show employees of the firm talking about the care the killer whales get while at the marine park.

Series of troubles

SeaWorld Entertainment also disclosed that it had been subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Consequently, the marine park operator has formed a special committee which is made up of independent directors charged with dealing with these inquiries.

SeaWorld Entertainment also disclosed that David D’Alessandro, its chairman who shareholders voted out earlier this month, will still serve as the non-executive chairman of the board until the end of the year. D’Alessandro had offered to resign immediately after failing to win re-election but the board declined to accept his resignation and postponed it by a few months.

Besides the campaign against the marine park operator by animal rights activists, SeaWorld is also facing a class-action lawsuit from some investors.