DOJ Advises Gibson Guitar to Export Labor to Madagascar

September 1, 2011

GIBSONGibson Guitar Corp… [ran] …afoul of U.S. authorities over allegedly illegal imports of wood. 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. Federal agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shut down the Gibson Guitar factory in Memphis Aug. 24 to serve search warrants. Henry Juszkiewicz, chief executive officer of the closely held company, said in an interview that a broker probably made a mistake in labeling the goods but that the sale was legal and approved by Indian authorities. Gibson’s predicament, which raises concerns for musical instrument makers and other importers of wood, illustrates the pitfalls of complying with U.S. law while dealing with middlemen in faraway countries whose legal systems can be murky. The law ensnaring Gibson is the Lacey Act of 1900, originally passed to regulate trade in bird feathers used for hats and amended in 2008 to cover wood and other plant products. It requires companies to make detailed disclosures about wood imports and bars the purchase of goods exported in violation of a foreign country’s laws. Leonard Krause, a consultant in Eugene, Ore., who advises companies on complying with the Lacey Act, is telling clients they should hire lawyers in countries where they obtain products. “How many people know the statutes in India?” Mr. Krause said. “The net effect is that it raises everybody’s cost of doing business.” Federal agents first raided Gibson factories in November 2009 and were back again Aug. 24, seizing guitars, wood and electronic records. Gene Nix, a wood product engineer at Gibson, was questioned by agents after the first raid and told he could face five years in jail. “Can you imagine a federal agent saying, ‘You’re going to jail for five years’ and what you do is sort wood in the factory?” said Mr. Juszkiewicz, recounting the incident. “I think that’s way over the top.” Gibson employees, he said, are being “treated like drug criminals.” By JAMES R. HAGERTY and KRIS MAHER [MORE] from WSJ

The Gibson Guitar saga has taken a sinister turn. It seems that the Department of Justice wasn’t satisfied with merely raiding the law abiding factories of Gibson Guitar with armed agents, shutting down their operation costing them millions, and leaving the American company in the dark as to how to proceed without going out of business. Now, according to CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, agents of the United States government are bluntly informing them that they’d be better off shipping their manufacturing labor overseas. In an interview with KMJ AM’s “The Chris Daniel Show,” Juszkiewicz revealed some startling information. [MORE] via REDSTATE