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A US judge has granted class action status in a lawsuit accusing SeaWorld of misleading its shareholders about the negative impact of documentary Blackfish.
The 2013 film looked at how orcas are treated at the park – as well as the death of one of the entertainment park’s trainers. Since the movie’s release, the park has seen its profits plunge, and visitor numbers plummet.
Those eligible to be included in the lawsuit had to own stock in the company between August 29, 2013 and August 12, 2014 – without selling it before August 13, 2014.
Past and present company executives, the board of directors, and their immediate families are not eligible.
A group of investors files the lawsuit against SeaWorld in 2014 – accusing park executives of denying that the park’s ailing fortunes were connected with the film.
Although executives admitted in August 2014 that the movie hit attendance rates, leaked emails show SeaWorld bosses complaining about the film as far back as late 2013.
According to reporters on TV show Orlando News Now: “Reports say SeaWorld executives knew exactly what kind of damage Blackfish was going to have to their brand.
“That’s despite what they’ve been saying to the public though.
“It turns out that SeaWorld were really worried about this issue even before they admitted it.”
According to the program, a leaked email from the park’s chief spokesman said: “God we look like idiots… on its best SeaWorld is controversial, but right now it’s being attacked from all sides… we are positively radioactive.”
PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman issued a statemnt about the judge’s decision to grant class-action status to the lawsuit.
She said: “As a SeaWorld stockholder and class member in this lawsuit against the company, PETA looks forward to the day when the Blackfish effect forces SeaWorld to release the long-suffering marine mammals it currently holds captive into coastal sanctuaries.
“Plummeting stock prices and ticket sales, scandal, and lost profits confirm that the company can no longer ignore or delude an outraged public that now knows that orcas swim listlessly and die prematurely in its dismal concrete tanks.”
‘Mission to inspire’
A statement from SeaWorld says: “SeaWorld does not comment on pending litigation.
“The company remains ever-focused on our mission to inspire people to protect animals and the world’s oceans.”