Is Gibson Guitars in trouble with the Feds?


Federal agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service shut down the Gibson Guitar factory in Memphis Aug. 24 to serve search warrants.

In the Wall Street Journal: Raid by Federal agents at Gibson Guitar in Nashville, TN. The Commercial Appeal/Zuma Press.

This morning’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) features a story about a federal raid over wood imported from Asia and Africa. The article, co-authored by JAMES R. HAGERTY and KRIS MAHER, states among other things:

“…Though no charges have been filed, Gibson factories have been raided twice, most recently last week, by federal agents who say ebony exported from India to Gibson was “fraudulently” labeled to conceal a contravention of Indian export law…”

The Lacey Act of 1900

The company argues that middlemen overseas may have signed export papers my mistake, and this may tripped Gibson over the Lacey Act. Originally passed in 1900 to regulate trade in bird feathers, the Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to cover wood “…and other plant products…”

For all details, please read the article at the Journal (WSJ).

Implications for woodworkers

Whether hobby or pro woodworkers, you and I are subject to the Lacey Act. Suppose you are traveling in India or Africa, and you bring back some wood — maybe a little piece you hand-carry on the airplane, or you sent some in your luggage. It is very possible you could be tagged for being in violation of the Act, unless you fill out the proper paperwork. From the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s page describing how this works:

The Lacey Act combats trafficking in “illegal” wildlife, fish, and plants. The 2008 Farm Bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008), effective May 22, 2008, amended the Lacey Act by expanding its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products. The Lacey Act now, among other things, makes it unlawful, beginning December 15, 2008, to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration. This page will serve as a clearinghouse for all information related to the implementation of the Lacey Act declaration requirement and will be updated promptly as new information becomes available.

What do you think?

What is YOUR take?

  • Is the declaration paperwork all that is required to avoid arrest?
  • Or does the law kick in only when the paperwork is not filled to satisfaction?
  • Do limits exist to the quantity that can be imported?
  • Does the ban apply to “finished” or “partially finished” wood?
I look forward to hearing from you. Please use the Comments section below, or the Contact form available by clicking on my signature line below.

Al Navas