ORLANDO, Florida — SeaWorld Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby acknowledged Thursday morning that company employees posed as animal rights activists in an attempt to spy on opponents.

Reading from a statement SeaWorld said it would post online, Manby said the company’s board of directors has “directed management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal rights activists. This activity was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats.”

Last year People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused a San Diego SeaWorld employee named Paul McComb of posting as an activist to spy on them.

Manby said Thursday McComb has returned to work. He had been placed on leave during an investigation.

The company has not given any details about whether anyone was fired or disciplined as a result of the investigation.

The statement was given at the end of a conference call to discuss an earnings report. Fourth quarter earnings showed promising results but the stock has plunged as company officials have warned that 2016’s first quarter has been challenging.

SeaWorld last week had a management shakeup that included the departures of Chief Parks Operations Officer Dan Brown and Chief Zoological Officer Brad Andrews, effective in April. SeaWorld would not say whether the management changes were related to the spying matter. A company spokeswoman said PETA would not comment past the statement it has already issued.

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