Justice Department raided the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville.
a Gibson press release:
On August 24, 2011, around 8:45 a.m. CDT, agents for the federal government executed
four search warrants on Gibson's facilities in Nashville and Memphis and seized
several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. Gibson had to cease its
manufacturing operations and send workers home for the day, while armed agents
executed the search warrants. Gibson has fully cooperated with the execution of
the search warrants.
This actually happened once before:
In 2009, more than a dozen agents with automatic weapons invaded the Gibson factory
in Nashville. The Government seized guitars and a substantial amount of ebony
fingerboard blanks from Madagascar. To date, 1 year and 9 months later, criminal
charges have NOT been filed, yet the Government still holds Gibson's property.
is the Justice Department invading Gibson's factory and seizing its property,
without filing any charges? Do they think illegal materials might be hidden inside
the guitars? Or, given recent history, were they trying to hide illegal guns inside
guitars headed for Mexico?
No, this is all about the wood the guitars are made from. As the Wall Street Journal
The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally
harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that
makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally
harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn't be a negligible offense. Peter
Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar
wood trade the "equivalent of Africa's blood diamonds." But with the new raid,
the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met
every regulatory jot and tittle. [A jot and a tittle are small marks put in Hebrew
text to clarify the true meaning.]
What jots and tittles would those be? This isn't some kind of environmental crisis.
I don't suppose Gibson's musician clientele would tolerate one of those. According
to the Gibson statement:
The wood the Government seized on August 24 is from a Forest Stewardship Council
certified supplier and is FSC Controlled, meaning that the wood complies with
the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, which is an industry-recognized
and independent, not-for-profit organization established to promote responsible
management of the world's forests. FSC Controlled Wood standards require, among
other things, that the wood not be illegally harvested and not be harvested in
violation of traditional and civil rights. Gibson has a long history of supporting
sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities
such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC certified supplies.
The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards.
Well, it's all about the Lacey Act, which the Memphis Daily News tells
us "does not directly address conservation issues, but is about obeying all laws
of the countries from which wood products are procured." In other
words, if you're going to buy wood from India, you have to be in full compliance
with Indian law.
Which Indian law did Gibson allegedly violate? Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz
told the Memphis Daily News the government refuses to explain the charges
But Gibson's CEO says his company has not been told what it did wrong and that
he assumes the allegation is that some of the wood being used to manufacture the
company's guitars is illegal.
"Everything is sealed. They won't tell us anything," Juszkiewicz said, never raising
his voice but pulling no punches in his defense of the storied guitar maker.
However, a Reuters report includes some speculation that it might be a weird Justice
Department interpretation of a law the Indian government has not asked the American
government to enforce:
"(The government) has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished
by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice
Department's interpretation of a law in India," Juszkiewicz said.
If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material
would be legal, he said.
In an affidavit, agent John Rayfield of the US Fish and Wildlife Service said
US Customs agents in June detained a shipment of sawn ebony logs from India.
The paperwork accompanying the shipment identified it fraudulently as Indian ebony
fingerboards for guitars and it did not say it was going to Gibson, the affidavit
In July, agents observed Indian ebony and rosewood delivered to a storage facility
for Gibson, according to the affidavit, which asked permission to seize Gibson's
Juszkiewicz vented his frustrations to the Memphis Daily News:
"The federal bureaucracy is just out of hand," Juszkiewicz said. "And it seems
to me there's almost a class warfare of companies versus people, rich versus poor,
Republicans versus Democrats … and there's just a lack of somebody that stands
up and says, 'I'm about everyone. I'm really about America and doing what's good
for the country and not fighting these little battles.'"
"We feel totally abused. We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting
me personally, our company personally and the employees here in Tennessee, and
it's just plain wrong."
I can't imagine why we have stagnant GDP growth and chronic high
unemployment! The Obama Administration is actively at war with every business
they don't choose to subsidize.