Business News

SeaWorld shares tank as feds investigate execs surrounding 'Blackfish'

Key Points
  • Shares fell 6 percent on Monday, three days after SeaWorld disclosed it had received subpoenas from the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • SeaWorld said it is cooperating with the investigations.
  • The entertainment company's board chairman failed to win a majority re-election vote earlier this month and will step down at the end of the year.
Trainers have Orca killer whales perform for the crowd during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego. (File photo).
Mike Blake | Reuters

SeaWorld's stock fell 6 percent on Monday, three days after the company disclosed two federal investigations into public statements and trading in the company's securities after the premier of the documentary "Blackfish."

SeaWorld received subpoenas earlier this month from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission "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," according to an SEC filing on Friday.

The entertainment company's board of directors formed a committee of independent directors on June 16 "with respect to these inquiries," according to the filing. "Blackfish," a documentary that condemned keeping orca whales in captivity, has haunted SeaWorld since it premiered in 2013.

A SeaWorld spokeswoman on Monday declined to comment, saying in an email that the SEC filing "covers everything the company has to say regarding the government inquiries," and that SeaWorld "would note that the filing states 'The Company has cooperated with these government inquiries and intends to continue to cooperate with any government requests or inquiries."'

Until Monday, SeaWorld's stock had rebounded this year after hitting an all-time low of $11.77 on Sept. 20, 2016. Just months before "Blackfish" premiered, shares hit an all-time high of $39.65. On Monday, they fell to under $15.

Friday's revelation that SeaWorld executives are under investigation in relation to "Blackfish" is the documentary's latest blow to the once-thriving entertainment company. Visits to SeaWorld's parks have decreased as public outcry has increased in the wake of the scathing documentary. SeaWorld had denounced the film, dedicating an entire page of its website "SeaWorld Cares" to fight the "propaganda."

Despite its criticisms, SeaWorld announced in January that it would end orca shows. Then in March, SeaWorld announced its current orcas will be its last ones.

Last week, SeaWorld's board chairman David D'Alessandro failed to gain the majority of the vote to re-elect him. The board rejected D'Alessandro's resignation, which he was required to submit, but he will step down on Dec. 31, according to the filing.