Gibson and the U.S. Department of Justice Reach Settlement Agreement on Lacey Act Violations
A 2012 Gibson USA SG Standard Limited with baked maple fretboard.
Washington, DC (August 6, 2012) -- The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Public Affairs announced today that Gibson has entered into an agreement to resolve the investigation into alleged Lacey Act violations regarding the company's purchase and import of ebony and rosewood.
This morning's DOJ press release provided details of the settlement:
"The criminal enforcement agreement defers prosecution for criminal violations of the Lacey Act and requires Gibson to pay a penalty amount of $300,000. The agreement further provides for a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used to promote the conservation, identification, and propagation of protected tree species used in the musical instrument industry and the forests where those species are found. Gibson will also implement a compliance program designed to strengthen its compliance controls and procedures. In related civil forfeiture actions, Gibson will withdraw its claims to the wood seized in the course of the criminal investigation, including Madagascar ebony from shipments with a total invoice value of $261,844.
"In light of Gibson’s acknowledgement of its conduct, its duties under the Lacey Act, and its promised cooperation and remedial actions, the government will decline charging Gibson criminally in connection with Gibson’s order, purchase, or importation of ebony from Madagascar and ebony and rosewood from India, provided that Gibson fully carries out its obligations under the agreement, and commits no future violations of law, including Lacey Act violations."
The settlement resolves two separate incidents that involved high-profile raids of Gibson's Nashville and Memphis facilities in 2009 and again in 2011. In question was ebony from Madagascar and rosewood from India, which Gibson had allegedly purposefully imported illegally, violating a 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act, which regulates the trade of endangered plants.
Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz had vehemently denied wrongdoing throughout the yearlong investigation, with the company rallying support via television and radio appearances as well as social media. He said in an August 2011 press conference, "We feel totally abused. We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally, and the employees in Tennessee—and it’s just plain wrong."
In the months following the raid, Gibson ramped-up its use of alternative fretboard woods, including granadillo on the 2012 Les Paul Studio, and baked maple on a number of guitars, including the Les Paul Classic Plus, SG Standard Limited, and Melody Maker.