Gibson Guitar of Nashville, Tenn., a company whose electric guitars are known around the world, has agreed to pay $350,000 in penalties for buying and importing wood from India and Madagascar in violation of a law intended to protect rain forests, the Justice Department announced on Monday.
The department said the agreement defers prosecution of Gibson for violating of the Lacey Act, which includes provisions meant to discourage over-harvesting of certain species of wood. The wood in the Gibson case was ebony from India and Madagascar and rosewood from India. Gibson will pay a penalty of $300,000 and contribute $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to promote conservation of trees used in making musical instruments.
Gibson has also agreed to withdraw its claims to wood valued at $261,844 that was seized in the course of the criminal investigation, the department 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 deforestation,” said Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “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.”
Joining Moreno in announcing the settlement were U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin of the Middle District of Tennessee and Dan Ashe, Director of the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“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,” Ashe said.
“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,” Martin said.
Main Justice reported last October that federal agents had raided Gibson offices and plants in connection with the investigation.
Bloomberg reported on Monday that the company had no immediate comment on the settlement.