Gibson Settles with US Government
On Monday of this week (August 6, 2012), in a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the Department of Justice, Gibson Guitar Company acknowledged responsibility for importing illegal wood into the United States and incurred penalties totaling a minimum of $600,000, including the forfeiture of wood taken from the protected forests of Madagascar.
According to the DOJ, Gibson will pay a $300,000 fine and donate an additional $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The company will escape criminal charges by adhering to terms of a settlement in the next year and a half. Gibson also has agreed to abandon a lawsuit seeking $261,000 in damages incurred during the investigation.
Ignacia S. Morena, an assistant U.S. attorney general, said, “Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit over-harvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestration.”
An official press release issued by Gibson, reads (in part): CEO Henry Juszkiewicz commented: “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. An important part of the settlement is that we are getting back the materials seized in a second armed raid on our factories and we have formal acknowledgement that we can continue to source rosewood and ebony fingerboards from India, as we have done for many decades.”
Despite the fact that, “…the government acknowledges that Gibson has cooperated with the Government and the investigation conducted by the Fish and Wildlife Service,” Gibson was subject to two hostile raids on its factories by agents carrying weapons and attired in SWAT gear where employees were forced out of the premises, the production was shut down, goods were seized as contraband, and threats were made that would have forced the business to close.
CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz commented, “We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted… Instead, the Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the US Government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the tax payer millions of dollars and putting a job creating US manufacture at risk and at a competitive disadvantage. This shows the increasing trend on the part of government to criminalize rules and regulations and treat US 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 insure 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.”
Gibson will publish the agreement and the attached Statement of Facts that both the Government and Gibson agreed to so anyone can independently draw their own conclusions.
For the full DOJ press release, click here.