Gibson Guitar Settles with DOJ in Lacey Violations Investigation

More than 33 months after the initial raid on Gibson Guitar by federal agents, the investigation into Gibson Guitar Corp.’s violations of the Lacey Act has been resolved. Under an agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice, Gibson will not be charged criminally but will comply with a host of obligations.

Gibson will pay a penalty amount of $300,000, as well as 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. Additionally, 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.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno in a release. “Gibson has ceased acquisitions of wood species from Madagascar and recognizes its duty under the U.S. Lacey Act to guard against the acquisition of wood of illegal origin by verifying the circumstances of its harvest and export, which is good for American business and American consumers.”

The case against Gibson Guitar dates back to a raid on the company on Nov. 1, 2009, when federal agents seized ebony and guitars containing ebony from Madagascar. The company was raided again on Aug. 24, 2011, when agents seized guitars, electronic files and rosewood and ebony from India. The last raid sparked a firestorm of controversy about the Lacey Act and spurred efforts to further amend the law.

The full news release from the Department of Justice about the Gibson Guitar case settlement can be viewed here.


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