Gibson Admit Buying Illegal Wood

Despite knowing its timber stock was illegal, it ordered more. Now it's been slapped with a hefty fine - but is it enough?

Ultimate Guitar

Gibson have admitted to using illegal wood imported from Madagascar in its guitars, and has been fined $350,000.

The company based in Nashville is renown for its designs, but knowingly violated the Lacey Act which requires firms to ensure their timber is legally obtained.

Instead, despite knowing that its imports might be illegal, Gibson ordered further timber stocks which would become fretboards for guitars, mandolins and banjos.

The company was raided by federal agents one year ago. At the time, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz insisted their timber came from a certified supplier, and made a claim for more than $300,000 for their losses in stock. The court case has since proven otherwise, and Gibson has withdrawn its claim.

"As a result of this investigation and criminal enforcement agreement, Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation," said Assistant Attorney General Moreno in response to the settlement.

According to the World Bank (via BBC), the illegal timber trade is worth $10-15 billion every year, and conservations groups say that too little is done to enforce trade laws which protect the forests affected.

How do you feel about Gibson making instruments out of illegal wood? Would you be happy to buy a guitar if you knew it came from a protected forest, and is the fine enough? Take the debate to the comments.

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    Because over deforestation of a certain species of tree in one area can lead that tree becoming extinct in a particular ecosystem. Other species rely on that tree for god knows what but thats how ecosystems work and without the tree maybe other species would die off as well. In other areas maybe the deforestation hasnt been as severe so since were human we dont really give a shit and just keep chopping them down until were like, "ok....maybe now weve done enough damage here". On a second thought itd be cool to get one of the les pauls made with illegal wood
    I wish they'd mentioned the amount that Gibson is charged as fine. In any case, all they'd have to do is sell 2 or 3 guitars to compensate for it.
    Gibson have admitted to using illegal wood imported from Madagascar in its guitars, and has been fined $350,000.
    Thats the first thing it says at the top of the story.
    new comment system and we STILL have to triple-post to apologise for double-posting. tut-tut
    It's not a rare wood, it's an important wood. Alot of people here are showing their age. Trees take a long time to grow and if you kill what lives in it you will probably kill it forever. This world disgusts me sometimes, you people need to wake up.
    It's not ok that Gibson makes guitars out of illegal wood just because they can afford the fines. And to top it all off they made a counter-claim? ...losing respect quickly...
    Guys, this is REALLY bad. What this means is (and I have heard of this happening) that if you try to visit another country and bring along your gibson guitar, they can confiscate it since it was made with illegal wood.
    I'm pretty happy that my Gibson was made literally days before this Lacey Act scandal came about.
    Their quality control has become so piss-poor that they deserve this.
    Agreed. I hope this whole thing will be a wakeup call to Gibson. It's such a minuscule fine though, so it probably won't be.. then again, the bad press from this incident will definitely be an issue for them.
    Here's the kicker though, if you happen to own an instrument made from these woods, you are now in danger of having it taken from you. Do you think Gibson will replace that instrument free of charge? Since they knowingly manufactured and sold these instruments? Probably not. Most likely you would have to sue.
    link no1
    Wait, why would they take it off you? They gonna take the illegal wood guitars, plant them and grow new trees?
    Sadly its true, but that danger comes when you are carrying one of those Gibsons instruments trought an airport or a fontier
    Woah, so many idiots here. Are UGers really this uneducated about the importance and the amazing biodiversity of rainforests? Madagascar has very little forest, yet thousands of endangered species, that do not live anywhere else in the world. All of you defending Gibson for the use of Madagascarian wood should ashamed of yourselves.
    Given gibson baught the wood from a licensed trader that didn't check their sources (Or knowing did so for more profit) can you really blame gibson? It's like If i gave you a sandwich, to which you ate. Then someone came here asking why you ate their sandwich. You had no idea that it was their sandwich, you just ate it, I gave it you. You can see the point i'm making. You didnt know, I may have done but all that guy knows is YOU ate his sandwich. Gibson mitigated their losses by settling the case rather than spend millions on a bureaucratic lawsuit that involved multi national laws with differing laws on the matter at hand.
    Epi g-310
    That only works if there's some law that says you have to do a background check on any sandwiches you may receive. What Gibson is guilty of is buying wood that they didn't know for a fact was legal.
    Then how could they know for a fact it was legal? That itself is a near impossible feat. If they are buying from a middleman then they have no access to the suppliers of the middleman. Ever tried to get info about a middlemans sources? Let's just say you wont get that info because the middleman exists to be that bridge, they don't want their sources known. For a company they have to deal with reputation of this middleman. A dodgy middleman with a decent reputation has no trouble making official looking documents. So back to the sandwich. You have no idea where I get the sandwich, you just know i'm well known for getting sandwiches. You desire a sandwich so I give one to you, due to reputation you have no need to question that I have the sandwich. Yet you ask anyway and I show you a receipt that I mocked up that looks official. If it then your job to trace through paper records to determine if this is legit or not? no. You took all reasonable steps to determine the source. Yet still the guy finds you eating his sandwich and I duck away into the shadows to leave you to bite the bullet. Welcome to the real world.
    I hate to tell you this, but you are the idiot. This has nothing at all to do with biodiversity. If anything the increased use of these woods would lead to increased acreage planted with the trees.
    Ok quick response to this: thats not how shit works. Better response: Ok there are several factors here. Ecological and Genetic. Biggest and most considered ones are ecological. Harvesting these trees from the wild heterogeneous environment where they are keystones in the ecosystem, affecting every single species directly or indirectly (and not talking about subtle only tree huggers care about it shit) I mean a loss of 10-25% being like humans losing all maize grown in the USA. When you plant them in homogeneous enclosures where the presence of other species isn't allowed they can't serve their keystone role essentially making the "captive" population useless ecologically speaking so that eliminates the increased acreage argument. On top of that when you consider the fact that unlicensed sources practice illegal harvesting from wild populations where they don't replant (on top of having further negative disturbance effects in their harvesting strategy.) On top of that genetic effects. Essentially you're killing off all sorts of different genotypes and replacing them with clones of the same tree. it makes them vulnerable to a single blight wiping out the entire population and hence destroying the madagascarian ecosystem with further impacts worldwide through aquatic communities. I could write you an entire paper about all the reasons you should care but suffice it to say that killing off this one tree would destroy the ecosystems and livelihood of an entire country causing famine and resultant poltical instability in addition to further impacts globally resulting in increased food prices, fuel prices and a whole load of shit that would affect you directly. So this isn't exactly a conscience thing.
    I like how people on here are all like "Can someone tell me why I should care/why this is bad because I'm not seeing it" then they get told, in very clear and well thought out terms, why they should care and why it's bad and they just essentially respond with "lawl nerdz, I bet u read bookz haha"
    I never asked why I should care, and if I did, I'd actually ask someone who knew what they were talking about. Now, if you want to explain why Gibson got singled out for an industry wide practice, I'm all ears.
    Wait, so if it's "an industry wide practice" then nobody should be considered guilty? Interesting viewpoint.
    .... really someone who knew what they were talking about.... would you like me to refer you to some of the case studies and scientific papers I read on my way to completing my degree or mail a photocopy of the aforementioned degree. I didn't think that the internet was a stickler for credentials.... I was just clarifying that the "will have no impact on biodiversity" remark was completely false and missed out a large amount of relevant information that even an undergraduate who's taken one course on this stuff hell even a highschool student could probably tell you. And as for the "why should I care" aspect that wasn't a direct response to you but more so to preempt any comments of that variety and to address the already made comments of that type. So don't be so presumptuous please.
    You may not have asked seabear, but you posting a completely ignorant comment that needed correcting.
    Right.... Would you like to tell me about the spotted owl while you are at it?
    As if I needed another excuse to avoid Gibson. Overpriced, declining in quality and now this.
    Honest mistake? More like dishonest crime. And no $350k is not enough or a lot of money. You think that makes them come even close to bankruptcy to even mention it?? So many people who think that it's funny cuz they're "just trees" when you're talking about one of the most unique parts of the world. ADVIL originally came from an amazon rainforest vine people. Don't be an ignorant jackass and think there's nothing valuable to keeping the forest alive.
    I have a feeling that the guitars that were made with this "illegal wood" are going to become valuable, coveted guitars.....for no reason....
    Where can I get an illegal wood guitar? I want to do a custom tribute Les Paul. Maybe I can use active pickups and have a setting that makes it sound like a chainsaw?
    Id feel special that my guitar was made f such rare wood o.o
    I really don't care about the rarity of the wood in my guitar. My main concerns when purchasing are tone, and then looks. If later I found out the wood is rare and came from a unsustainable, ecologically uncertain place I'd feel kinda bad about it. But I'd keep the guitar.
    I hate to say this, but I kinda agree...
    Symbolic Acts
    I would feel horrible.
    why? Of course you feel special when you have something this rare. You are just a moralfag. It's only wood anyway, no one died or anything. Chill.
    Pick between the two: Moral Fag or Ignorant Fuck... I choose Moral Fag because its better to have morals and knowledge about everything and use the knowledge accordingly and properly in relations with everything else rather being stupid and saying "its only wood"...
    in the sad scenario, I'd say that I honestly wouldnt even think about it whenever I picked it up/looked at it. I know its an extinction thing, n most people w/ a conscious might feel horrible, but its a guitar...if you dont want it, sell it or just dont buy it in the 1st place. either way its sad, but who really gives a shit, and in the grand scheme, how many people even know this whole thing happened?
    I just want to know what is so cool about playing on rare fretboard wood? is it any better than Rosewood or whatever? does it have to be rare? When I am buying a guitar the only that comes in mind is pickups, weight, thickness of the neck, fret numbers and thats all... Oh, and yes, people give a shit. People give a shit so much that they are now known as tree-huggers, ever heard of them? Alot of people heard about this news, it came up on the tv the other day... wait, did you just say that you dont have a conscious mind? I think you should see a doctor about that, I dont think thats normal
    Tree huggers? Really? Dude, go back to the 60's when people gave a damn. And just bc I don't give 1/100000th of a damn, don't mean that I don't have a conscious just don't give a **** bout this particular issue and, I digress, if you already bought it and don't want it, sell it, if you haven't already bought it, just shut up n dont buy it. Either engage in a Gibson/Epiphone boycott or get over your hippy ass.
    I'm sad to say I'm one of the ignorant ****s. I can't make myself care one second for those trees. I'd rather be playing guitar on the rare wood, than seeing some extremely rare trees standing in Madagascar, doing nothing byt beeing rare. If those trees never where chopped down, how wood (you see what I did there?) that affect your life?
    haha that pun made my day xD... but anyways... It doesnt take a guitar made of rare wood to make a good player or to enjoy playing the guitar... Its just going to overprice your next purchase.. Im okay with buying a cheap swapmeet $70 electirc guitar with cheap wood as long as i can still play it... And, i care about trees because they are what bring oxygen for our lungs to breath.. you might not care because you are not from over there, but you could at least think of the people(if any) and species that live on Madagascar
    Just like a bad hair will grow back
    Just kidding, but seriously I don't know good rare wood with a messed up ecosystem. Or regular wood, but the ecosystem survives... Hmmm...tough choice...Yeah I guess that is kinda bad...but that good wood though. :/