Without warning, 30 federal agents with guns and bulletproof vests stormed our guitar factories in Tennessee. They shut down production, sent workers home, seized boxes of raw materials and nearly 100 guitars, and ultimately cost our company $2 million to $3 million worth of products and lost productivity. Why? We imported wood from India to make guitars in America...This morning comes the news that Gibson has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle the case. The company has also given up on getting $261,844 worth of ebony returned.
The Aug. 24 raid was authorized under the Lacey Act. Originally enacted as a means to curb the poaching of endangered species, the law bans wildlife and plants from being imported if, according to the interpretation of federal bureaucrats, the importation violates a law in the country of origin.
The fingerboards of our guitars are made with wood that is imported from India. The wood seized during the Aug. 24 raid, however, was from a Forest Stewardship Council-certified supplier, meaning the wood complies with FSC's rules requiring that it be harvested legally and in compliance with traditional and civil rights, among other protections. Indian authorities have provided sworn statements approving the shipment, and U.S. Customs allowed the shipment to pass through America's border to our factories.
Nonetheless, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to enforce its own interpretation of Indian law, arguing that because the fingerboards weren't finished in India, they were illegal exports. In effect, the agency is arguing that to be in compliance with the law, Gibson must outsource the jobs of finishing craftsmen in Tennessee.
August 6, 2012
"Especially in a bearish economy, entrepreneurs need to be able to operate without the fear that inadvertently breaking an obscure regulation..."
"... or unknowingly violating a foreign statute could shut down their company and land them or their employees in jail," wrote Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp., in a WSJ column last month.