SEC staff accuses SeaWorld of violating securities laws

Company put on notice about possible civil action


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will soon consider a recommendation from the agency’s staff that civil enforcement action be taken against Seaworld Entertainment, Inc.

According to a new public report filed by SeaWorld with the SEC, the theme park operator has been notified that SEC staff will allege violations of certain provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws.

The SEC has been investigating allegations that SeaWorld executives misled investors about the impact the documentary “Blackfish” had on theme park attendance. The agency has also been looking into trades of the company’s stock.

The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate criminal fraud investigation into similar allegations.

If the commission finds SeaWorld in violation, the agency may seek remedies that include an injunction or civil money penalties, records show.

In its filing with the SEC, SeaWorld’s chief legal officer points out that the so-called “Wells” notice is not a formal allegation or a finding of wrongdoing by the company. SeaWorld has an opportunity to respond to the notice and argue that such an action should not be brought, according to the filing.

SeaWorld representatives have said the company is cooperating with both the SEC and DOJ investigations.

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