Gibson Pays $350,000 Fine for Illegal Timber 17 Aug 12

The famed Gibson Guitar Company is forced to pay a fine to the tune of $300,000 and to make an additional payment of $50,000 to the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits the use of illegally obtained timber.

It was discovered Gibson violated the Lacey Act when US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) raided the company’s premises in 2009 and 2011 and impounded ebony and rosewood illegally imported from Madagascar and India.

Deforestation is a critical issue in Madagascar, which makes the timber imports from that country especially egregious as the harvesting destroys habitat for lemurs and other wildlife and has a major ecological impact. Making matters less defensible was the FWS found evidence that an employee previously told Gibson the Madagascar imports could be illegal, yet Gibson chose to ignore the warning and ordered more timber.

“As a result of this investigation and criminal enforcement agreement, Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation,”Assistant Attorney General Moreno said in a statement.

In addition to paying the combine $350,000 fee, Gibson also had to relinquish all the illegal timber, which was valued at over $260,000. The treatment of Gibson had some Tea Party members complaining about government over-reach, which sparked politically charged media coverage throughout the investigation. Despite Gibson chief executive officer, Henry Juszkiewicz, initially proclaiming innocence, he finally agreed the company was at fault and was able to avoid criminal charges.

Incidentally, the century-old Lacey Act (1900) was originally created to eliminate the then popular bird feather trade; however, it was amended in 2008 to require U.S. companies to be aware of the legal status of all their imported wood and to disclose such information.