Still claiming Gibson Guitar was “inappropriately targeted” for Lacey Act violations, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said in a statement, "We felt compelled to settle as the costs of proving our case at trial would have cost millions of dollars and taken a very long time to resolve. This allows us to get back to the business of making guitars.”
The statement, released late Monday night by Gibson, follows news of the company's criminal enforcement agreement with the U.S. government for the illegal purchase and importation of Madagascar ebony.
Gibson has agreed to pay a fine of $300,000, plus an additional "community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation 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 also agreed to strengthen its environmental compliance policy, and to withdraw all claims to the wood seized in the earlier raids, including the Madagascar ebony.
Juszkiewicz said the government did agree to return materials seized in the second raid on its factories in 2011, adding “we have formal acknowledgement that we can continue to source rosewood and ebony fingerboards from India, as we have done for many decades."
In addressing “inconsistencies” in India’s foreign trade policy as related to rosewood and ebony, a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice to Gibson attorneys states, “The Government will not undertake enforcement actions related to Gibson's future orders, purchases, or imports of ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks from India, unless and until the Government of India provides specific clarification that ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks are expressly prohibited by laws related to Indian Foreign Trade Policy.”
The species are among those popular for manufacturing fretboard, which is the piece of wood attached to the neck of the guitar, underneath the strings. The fretboards are manufactured from fingerboard blanks. As part of the agreement Gibson admitted it knowingly purchased four shipments of fingerboard blanks made from Madagascar ebony between October 2008 and September 2009, which was a direct violation of Madagascar's ban on the unfinished wood.
Still, Juszkiewicz said in the statement, "We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted, and a matter that could have been addressed with a simple contact by a caring human being representing the Government. Instead, the Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the U.S. Government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the taxpayer millions of dollars and putting a job-creating U.S. manufacturer at risk and at a competitive disadvantage. This shows the increasing trend on the part of the Government to criminalize rules and regulations and treat U.S. businesses in the same way drug dealers are treated. This is wrong and it is unfair. I am committed to working hard to correct the inequity that the law allows and ensure there is fairness, due process, and the law is used for its intended purpose of stopping bad guys and stopping the very real deforestation of our planet."
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.