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Shareholder sues SeaWorld for fraud

Investor claims company misled shareholders about 'Blackfish'

ORLANDO, Fla. – A SeaWorld shareholder has filed a class action lawsuit against the Orlando-based company, accusing executives of misleading investors about the effect the documentary "Blackfish" has had on park attendance.

[READ:  Lawsuit filed against SeaWorld]

In his lawsuit filed in a California federal court, Lou Baker claims SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. "engaged in acts, practices, and a course of business that operated as a fraud and deceit upon the purchasers of the Company's securities in an effort to maintain artificially high market prices for (SeaWorld's) securities."

According to the lawsuit, SeaWorld executives repeatedly told investors that recent declines in theme park attendance were due to bad weather and this year's timing of the Easter travel week. However, Baker claims the attendance drop is actually a result of "Blackfish", a 2013 documentary criticizing the practice of keeping killer whales in captivity.

SeaWorld officials have never specifically blamed "Blackfish" for attendance issues. However, as Baker points out in his lawsuit, last month SeaWorld officials acknowledged in a corporate filing that attendance was being impacted by "recent media attention" surrounding a proposed California law that would outlaw captive killer whales. That proposed law was partially inspired by "Blackfish", according to the bill's sponsor, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom.

In a February 2013 corporate filing, prior to the release of "Blackfish," SeaWorld warned investors that a documentary about the marine park, "may harm our reputation, reduce attendance and negatively impact our business."

A SeaWorld spokesman said the company does not comment on active litigation.

Baker is represented by the Rosen Law Firm, in Los Angeles, which specializes in class action securities fraud cases. Several similar law firms have announced investigations into SeaWorld's statements to investors.