Gibson Guitar Corp. will pay $350,000 in damages after publicly acknowledging it illegally imported protected hardwoods from Madagascar and India used in producing its famous guitars.
According to the New York Daily News, the Department of Justice announced Monday that the company will pay the fine along with improving its import controls, in exchange for the government deferring prosecution of environmental crimes.
In a statement to the New York Times, Ignacia S. Moreno, an assistant attorney general, 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."
David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan who formerly headed the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, told the LA Times that he questions if the public interest is really being served by the Department of Justice's deferment. “It makes it seem that companies can buy their way out of a criminal prosecution, and that’s not the message the Justice Department should be sending to companies like Gibson that acknowledged they violated the law.”
For its part, Gibson said that the agreement was not an admission of guilt, but the best way to put the investigation behind it, according to the LA Times. In a statement Gibson Chief Executive Henry Juszkiewicz said, “We felt compelled to settle as the costs of proving our case at trial would have cost millions of dollars and taken a very long time to resolve. This allows us to get back to the business of making guitars.”