WASHINGTON - Gibson Guitar Corp. will not face prosecution for violating the Lacey Act and has instead entered into a criminal enforcement agreement with the United States. The guitar maker has also agreed to pay a $300,000 fine.

The agreement was announced Aug. 6 by Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Jerry Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee and Dan Ashe, Director of the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gibson also agrees to "commit no future violations of the law, including Lacey Act violations."

Gibson Guitar was charged with illegally purchasing and importing ebony wood from Madagascar as well as rosewood and ebony from India. Gibson's plants were raided in November 2009 and more recently in August 2011, the latter setting off public outcry for and against amending the Lacey Act.

As part of the agreement the company now admits it, among other things, 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, in place since 2006. 

According to the Department of Justice, Gibson will 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.

“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. “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.”

"This criminal enforcement agreement goes a long way in demonstrating the government’s commitment to protecting the world’s natural resources. The agreement is fair and just in that it assesses serious penalties for Gibson’s behavior while allowing Gibson to continue to focus on the business of making guitars,” U.S. Attorney Martin also said in the statement.

Saying the Lacey Act helps ensure a "level playing field" for those in forest and wood products industries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Ashe added, “We’re pleased that Gibson Guitar Corp. has recognized its duties under the Lacey Act to guard against the acquisition of wood of illegal origin from threatened forests and has taken responsibility for actions that may have contributed to the unlawful export and exploitation of wood from some of the world’s most threatened forests.”

 

Update:

Gibson Guitar CEO Speaks Out on Lacey Settlement

 

Background on the Lacey Act/Gibson Guitar controversy:

No RELIEF: Lacey Vote Cancelled

RELIEF Vote Could Bring Closure to Lacey Act Controversy (blog July 2012)

Lacey Act Amendment Under Vote by House (June 2012)

Lacey Act Battle Heats Up on the Hill (May 2012)

Musicians, Environmental Groups in Tune to Stop Illegal Logging (Jan 2012)

U.S. Reps Call for Lacey Act RELIEF

Battle Lines Drawn for Amending Lacey Act (blog Nov. 2011)

Wood Industry Groups Rally Support for Lacey (Sep. 2011)

Gibson Guitar Raid: The Lacey Act Run Amok (blog Sept. 2011)

Gibson Guitar Petitions Obama to End Investigation (Sept. 2011)

Amended Lacey Act Enforcement Begins Next Phase (April 2010)

Illegal Logging Bill Passes (July 2008)

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