SeaWorld Entertainment said the U.S. Department of Justice has ended its investigation into whether its former executives misled investors about the business impact of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.”
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SeaWorld said it was informed on Tuesday that the DOJ “does not intend to take any action against the Company or any individuals” based on its probe.
“The Company considers the DOJ matter concluded,” SeaWorld said in the filing.
In June 2017, both the DOJ and SEC served SeaWorld with subpoenas “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 federal probe stemmed from an earlier lawsuit brought by a group of investors who alleged SeaWorld executives made untrue statements about how “Blackfish,” which criticized the company’s use and treatment of captive killer whales, was negatively affecting attendance and revenue at SeaWorld parks.
The SEC claims were settled in September, with SeaWorld paying $4 million and former CEO James Atchison paying $1 million without the company admitting or denying guilt. SeaWorld and the DOJ did not respond to a request for further comment on the Dec. 11 filing.
While SeaWorld did see attendance and revenues plummet the years following the release of “Blackfish,” its fortunes appear to have changed in 2018.
Across all its theme parks, attendance rose 8.7 percent over the first nine months of the year. It may be able to expand on those gains in 2019 when the Orlando park will debut rethemed versions of six kid-friendly attractions as part of the new Sesame Street area.