SeaWorld won't face criminal charges in DOJ's 'Blackfish' probe

The Justice Department has ended its criminal investigation into SeaWorld Entertainment’s handling of the fallout from the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” without filing charges, the company disclosed in a filing Wednesday.

Federal officials probed whether SeaWorld executives misled investors about the impact of the documentary, which detailed the side effects killer whales experienced while in captivity at the parks. SeaWorld’s stock and attendance plunged after the documentary’s release.

“On December 11, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice informed SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. that it does not intend to take any action against the company or any individuals in connection with the investigation previously disclosed by the company concerning disclosures and public statements made by the company and certain individuals on or before August 2014 and trading in the company’s securities,” SeaWorld said in an SEC filing. “The company considers the DOJ matter concluded.”

SeaWorld Entertainment and its former CEO, James Atchison, agreed to pay more than $5 million in fines in a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last September. The two defendants were accused of omitting or manipulating key information about the company’s performance in earnings releases and other documents.

SeaWorld shares fell slightly in trading Thursday. However, shares have risen nearly 100 percent in 2018 amid rising attendance and park revenue.