SeaWorld Says Employees Will No Longer Pose as Activistsby
Worker who was put on leave is back on job in a new department
Theme-park owner says company was facing `credible threats'
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., under attack from animal rights groups opposed to the breeding and captivity of whales in theme parks, said employees will no longer pose as activists and that the worker who did so remains with the company.
“Following the completion of an investigation conducted by independent outside counsel, the board has directed that the company’s management team end a practice in which certain employees posed as animal rights activists,” the company said Wednesday on its blog.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in July that SeaWorld employee Paul McComb masqueraded as an animal-rights activist for three years, holding anti-SeaWorld signs in front of the company’s San Diego theme park and getting hauled away by police during a protest at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, in 2014. SeaWorld said last year such activity isn’t consistent with the company’s values and put the worker on leave.
SeaWorld said on its blog that McComb remains an employee in a different department and is no longer on leave. The company said it will strengthen oversight and controls and has retained Freeh Group International Solutions LLC to evaluate current practices and develop new policies and standards to ensure best practices companywide.
SeaWorld should “modernize its business with coastal sanctuaries and virtual reality displays instead of building more roller coasters and dolphin prisons,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement Thursday. “The tawdry orca sideshows and despicable spying tactics are sinking SeaWorld’s ship.”
The theme-park operator said the steps it took represented “efforts to maintain the safety and security of company employees, customers, and animals in the face of credible threats that the company had received.”
Separately Thursday, SeaWorld posted a loss in the fourth quarter that was wider than analysts’ estimates, sending the shares down as much as 12 percent in their biggest intraday drop in more than three months. The stock fell 11 percent to $17.57 at 12:19 p.m. in New York.
The 11 cent-a-share loss, excluding some items, compared with the 10-cent loss average of projections compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue rose 1.3 percent to $267.9 million, edging out the average estimate of $267.8 million.