SeaWorld will pay $5 million to settle fraud probe

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Is the worst over for SeaWorld?

SeaWorld and its former CEO have agreed to pay greater than $5 million to settle a federal probe into allegations of fraud on the marine animal park firm.

SeaWorld was accused of deceptive traders about how a lot of an impact the documentary movie “Blackfish” had on the corporate’s fame and enterprise, the Securities and Change Fee stated Tuesday.

The 2013 documentary, which was produced by CNN, was closely vital of the way in which SeaWorld (SEAS) handled the orcas it held in captivity. The corporate has disputed sure factors within the documentary.

A grievance filed by the SEC claims that SeaWorld and former CEO James Atchison weren’t initially forthcoming about how a lot the enterprise struggled with the unhealthy press it acquired after “Blackfish.” For a few 12 months after the movie’s launch, the corporate made “unfaithful and deceptive statements or omissions” in regards to the movie’s affect on the enterprise in authorities filings, on earnings calls and in press statements, based on the SEC.

In August 2014, SeaWorld lastly acknowledged that declining attendance figures had been partially attributable to damaging publicity, the SEC stated Tuesday. Shares of SeaWorld inventory plunged practically 33% the day SeaWorld launched earnings that month.

“SeaWorld described its fame as one in every of its ‘most necessary belongings,'” stated Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC Enforcement Division, in a information launch. “But it surely failed to guage and disclose the hostile affect ‘Blackfish’ had on its enterprise in a well timed method.”

SeaWorld and Atchison is not going to admit or deny the allegations as a part of the settlement phrases. SeaWorld is paying a $four million penalty, whereas Atchison can pay greater than $1 million, based on the SEC.

The settlements are nonetheless topic to court docket approval.

SeaWorld acknowledged the settlements in an announcement to CNNMoney on Tuesday.

“The Firm is happy to have resolved this matter and to proceed to give attention to delivering superior visitor experiences, world-class animal care and rescuing animals in want,” SeaWorld stated in an announcement.

CNNMoney (New York) First revealed September 18, 2018: 1:57 PM ET

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