Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. (SBGI) Agrees to Pay $48 million Civil Penalty
In August 2018, shareholders filed a class action suit against Sinclair alleging that the Company was responsible for the failed $3.9 billion Tribune Media merger. Rather than severing ties with the stations cleanly, plaintiffs allege Sinclair attempted to circumvent regulators’ rules on the number of U.S. television stations one company can have an interest in by offloading certain assets to family members and longtime business associates, paving the way for Sinclair to repurchase stations after the sale went through. This included the sale of two Texas television stations to Cunningham Broadcasting Corp. to benefit Sinclair’s majority owners, the Smith brothers.
On February 5, 2020, it was announced that the class action against Sinclair survived the Company’s motion to dismiss. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake stated, “taking the allegations in the amended complaint as true, Sinclair concealed the risk that its de facto control of Cunnigham could result in FCC rejection of the merger” and went on to state that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged that the stock price deflation was a result of Sinclair misrepresenting the nature of its relationship with Cunnigham. Then, on May 6, 2020, Sinclair agreed to pay a $48 million civil penalty to end the FCC investigation into its failed merger, resulting in depletion of Sinclair’s financial resources and further harm to shareholders.