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Kessler Topaz Defeats Motion for Summary Judgment in Securities Fraud Class Action Against SeaWorld Concerning Impact of Blackfish on Business

The win keeps this case on track for a February 18, 2020 jury trial.

Since December 2014, Kessler Topaz has served as co-lead counsel on behalf of two institutional Lead Plaintiffs and a Class of investors who acquired SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., common stock in the period from August 29, 2013 through August 12, 2014 (the “Class Period”).  Lead Plaintiffs claim that SeaWorld and its former executives (“Defendants”) issued materially false and misleading statements during the Class Period about the impact of Blackfish, an highly publicized documentary film released in 2013, on SeaWorld’s business, in violation of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5. Defendants repeatedly told the market over the roughly 11-month Class Period that the film and related public outrage were not affecting SeaWorld’s attendance or business at all—representations that Lead Plaintiffs maintain were false and misleading.  When the underlying truth of Blackfish’s impact on the business finally came to light in August 2014, SeaWorld’s stock price lost approximately 33% of its value in one day, injuring Class members.  In November 2017, Judge Michael M. Anello of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California certified the Class, appointed Lead Plaintiffs as Class Representatives, and appointed Kessler Topaz as co-Class Counsel.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Defendants’ petition to appeal that order in mid-2018.  And in April 2019, after the close of fact and expert discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims.

Summary judgment represented Defendants’ last and best opportunity to avoid a jury trial on the Class’s claims through a dispositive motion.  But, after full briefing and an October 2019 oral argument, the Court held, in a 98-page Order dated November 6, 2019, that Lead Plaintiffs had successfully shown that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on all elements of their claims, and the claims should go to a jury.  The Court set a trial date of February 18, 2020.  Kessler Topaz, along with co-lead counsel, will prosecute the case on behalf of Lead Plaintiffs and the Class.    

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