Gibson Guitar Co. agreed to pay a total of $350,000 to resolve a federal criminal investigation of allegations the company violated the Lacey Act by illegally purchasing and importing exotic wood species.
The Gibson prosecution drew wide attention among wood importers. It gave impetus to congressional bills seeking reforms to protect importers from what lawmakers said were unintended consequences of current language in the Lacey Act.
The Lacey Act, enacted in 1900 to curb shipments of endangered animal species, was amended in 2008 to include all plants and plant products. The amendments also required companies to certify that they hadn’t violated laws of exporting nations.
Federal agents raided Gibson’s factories in Nashville and Memphis in 2009 and 2011, claiming the guitar maker had illegally purchased and imported ebony wood from Madagascar and rosewood and ebony from India.
Gibson agreed to a settlement that includes a $300,000 fine and a $50,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for protection of protected wood species used in musical instruments. Gibson also will withdraw its claims to wood seized in the investigation, including ebony with a total invoice value of $261,844.