Gibson Guitars And The Lacey Act Misused
    By Hank Campbell | September 3rd 2011 11:47 AM | 42 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    The Lacey Act is one of few government regulations I have praised for its effectiveness.  Few government regulations are actually designed to help anyone, they are either designed to hobble someone in order to artificially level the playing field or they are designed to boost a special interest.  This act levels the playing field, but for the benefit of companies that are ethical.

    The Lacey Act was introduced in 1900 by Republican Congressman John F. Lacey of Iowa and Republican William McKinley made it into law.  This was a time when Republicans cared about the environment, the conservative linguistic base shared with conservation, while progressives were technocrats bent on building Utopia.  It was designed to stop trade in illegal wild game but over time it was amended to include many things, eventually including wood.  Pres. Ronald Reagan signed an amendment including illegal logging and in 2008 there was virtual agreement among the entire finished products industry that it needed to include lumber as well and Pres. George W. Bush supported it.  That's right, three Republicans supported laws protecting wood.

    The reason was simple; American guitar and furniture makers want to be responsible but the illegal trade would make it easier for companies in China and Russia and elsewhere to manufacture goods and undercut everyone.  The Lacey Act required a documented chain of possession for anything sold in America.

    But an obscure provision, as I noted, also had unintended effects that were a concern - it required the US to obey local laws, including a US interpretation of those laws even that country might not use.   So ten years ago, four Americans were charged with importing lobster tails in plastic bags rather than cardboard boxes, a violation of a Honduran regulation that Honduras no longer enforced (see a list of obscure, bizarre local laws still on the books in America - imagine if foreign countries enforced these in their countries on visitors returning from the USA). Yet the law is the law and so they were sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment each. The Lacey Act, in that case designed to keep Americans from breaking foreign rules when hunting or fishing (like poaching elephants in Kenya) clearly was wrong in principle regarding a lobster in a bag instead of a box.   But overall it has been good, thus my praise.

    Now it is wrong again, this time with Gibson Guitars.   

    I don't know Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz personally but I know others who run guitar companies large and small and I know guitars are not like most businesses; you can't be an MBA and just walk in there, and you can't be the head of a dishwasher company and get hired from outside to run a guitar company.  You have to know guitars to run a guitar company and that means caring about them - and thus being a fanatic about wood (see Guns, Guitars and Greenpeace for efforts by guitar makers to be part of the environmental solution to sustainable wood).

    In 2009, after the latest Lacey Act amendment, and with a new administration in power, federal agents raided the Gibson company offices over wood from Madagascar - Madagascar had a coup so is it now a 'legal' government or not?  No one can say but suddenly the wood was suspect, according to the Fish&Wildlife Commission.  The company filed a lawsuit in protest and then a few weeks ago they were raided again, this time over wood from India.

    Federal investigators look through the workshop at the Gibson Guitar factory during a raid on the Memphis facility last week. Credit: Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal/

    No charges have been filed in either case; they are simply being 'investigated' - the same way the FBI might harass the Mafia - but the company contends it is not doing anything illegal, including by the laws of India.

    Juszkiewicz issued a statement saying the government contends "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." 

    See what I mean about US courts interpreting foreign law under the Lacey Act?  

    The dispute is over Indian Ebony, all completely documented and legal except for this interpretation business.  The Indian government "prohibits the export of sawn wood" but does not prohibit the export of veneers, sheets of woods that have already been worked on.  The Feds say the wood was falsely declared as veneers because some assembly is still done in the U.S rather than India.

    Worse, says Juszkiewicz, the government told him if he would just have all of the work outsourced to India, the problem would go away.  Yes, we've had the worst employment month since World War II and someone in the government that created this mess is telling an American company to outsource more jobs. 

    Gibson has been importing the wood for decades with no issue, it is only the latest wrinkle and someone in the Justice Department now interpreting Indian law - it's clearly in the legal framework of the Lacey Act but, as I said, the legal framework sometimes needs to allow for common sense. 

    What should never happen is the American government hinting to an American company they should outsource more jobs to meet an obscure part of an American regulation the company helped lobby to put in place to insure ethical resources.

    For years, Gibson has been a part of Greenpeace "Music Wood" coalition, their CEO was on the Board of the Rainforest Alliance and Gibson was an early adopter of the certification created by the (useless)  Forest Stewardship Council.   Why has the Environmental Investigation Agency, a militant group funded by progressive billionaire George Soros, been lobbying the Justice Department so hard to go after Gibson?

    We don't have answers to that yet and Gibson can't find out in court - because still no charges have been filed, meaning they have to file their own lawsuit and wait to get access to government proof.  Under the Lacey Act, the government was able to raid the company and do millions of dollars in business damage without recourse.

    And this new interpretation means I can't take an old guitar with me on an international trip, because when I come back, I won't be able to document where every piece of wood came from - no one can, on any old guitar.   Under the Lacey Act and its interpretation by the Obama administration, they can just take my heirloom.  It also means a staunch ally of responsible environmental practices, guitar makers, now have to start looking for ways to tear down the Lacey Act - or move their companies overseas.


    Gerhard Adam
    I don't even know what to say to this.  The behavior of the government is outrageous (especially regarding the travel issue). 

    This really emphasizes the point that the government rarely goes after the real offenders, instead focusing on those that are more readily victimized.  I often wonder what happened to "due process".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Anyone could find some weird issue with any law, no matter how good - I can't imagine how we could write a law that absolves only the correct people.  But it's goofy here.  Now, I am not traveling anywhere with an heirloom guitar but an antique dealer is.   It's arbitrary, he could get pulled out of line and his guitar taken if he comes back and didn't sell it because there is literally no chain of ownership.   I know my old guitars have Brazilian rosewood but no named guitar has it now.  

    The RICO statutes were probably bad law, though they did good things in dealing with the MAFIA, but there is no reason the Fish&Wildlife Commission should be able to shut down Gibson guitars and terrorize their employees by busting in there and treating them like criminals.

    I wrote Taylor to ask what they thought about this because all of the big names are pretty responsible and, like Gibson, helped support the amendment.  It seems weird that these Soros people are going after just one company so perhaps there is more to it - or perhaps Gibson is tired of being pushed around after bending over backwards to help.
    Gerhard Adam
    In the first place, such laws should never be used to simply seize private property from private citizens.  If someone is suspected of engaging in illegal activities, then a legal case should be built as in every other criminal instance.  Simply allowing a customs official the arbitrary right to seize such property seems out of line.

    When it comes to companies, they clearly have records indicating purchases, etc., so once again, bring a legal case if illegal activities are being charged.  Without evidence, the government has no business in disrupting anything.

    Mundus vult decipi
    That was my concern the first time I wrote on Lacey - as valuable as it has been, the problems with  the food stuff was a concern but because it forced documentation on the entire wood chain a manufacturer should be issue free unless they were engaged in fraud.  This doesn't look like fraud, it looks like the government is claiming to know more about what it takes to make a guitar than Gibson does.   But I  was not being too hard on the government (yet) because it looks strange to have militant kooks going after one company but not all of them - when something looks arbitrary, maybe it isn't.  We'll find out.   In a recession and with the charge of too much government already in the air a great deal, this case is getting mainstream press.    
    Hi Hank,

    Thanks for the article. When I clicked on the last link in your article, I thought it would direct me somewhere that would provide more information about Soros "lobbying the justice department to go after Gibson". However, it took me to an npr article about the raid on the Gibson plant. That article provides no information, really, about the justice department. Where can I find more information supporting your claim that Soros has been in fact lobbying the justice department to go after Gibson. You can e-mail me if you want, or I'll check back to this site.


    The subject of the sentence is EIA, Soros is just a large contributor to the group.  Nowhere did I say Soros is personally lobbying the Fish&Wildlife Service or the Justice Dept. to go after Gibson.  He is a nut but he is not brazenly violating the law.   Read EIA's bragging about this trumped-up charge against Gibson here.  I linked to the NPR article because that is where their lobbyist brags that "Gibson clearly understood the risks involved" in buying wood that the documentation shows was completely legal.
    What is interesting is that, while all the other guitar making companies use the same importers and follow the same practices, only the CEO of Gibson is a Republican and has made generation donations to Republican campaigns (and a few Democrats) --all the other CEOs are Democrats. I thought that was just an odd tidbit with no bearing but when you mentioned the Soros connection, I think you have your answer right there as to why Gibson has been targeted.

    While misstating the "3 republicans rhetoric here, here is a little tip for the self improtant writer: BUSH VETOED that BILL! Do you research next time you decide to play the bash 3 republicans card!

    No, Bush vetoed a Farm Bill stuffed with pork so he could say he vetoed a farm bill stuffed with pork.   
    This sounds awfully fishy. Gibson should not be forced to outsource their jobs. If it isn't illegal for India to export this wood why is illegal to import it here in America? I hope a judge or someone else can get to the bottom of this. Almost all guitar companies use ebony on some of their guitars. Will those companies also be investigated?

    I think the crux of the problem here is not the enforcement, necessarily, but the basic law itself -- written and amended by Congress (with help from various do-gooders) and signed by various presidents. Should the U.S. government be in the business of interpreting and enforcing the laws of the entire world? Frankly, I take exception to the idea that the United Sates should be imprisoning its citizens for a foreign country's regulation regarding how lobster is "packaged." How does that relate to protecting wildlife? It's ok to import them in a box but not in a plastic bag? How does this protect the already legally caught lobster?

    The over-zealous mis-interpretation of Customs is absurd here (note that it is not the import of wood by Gibson, rather how the wood is "finished"), but the real problem is Congress and its propensity to draft laws and punish its own citizens with no thought to the unintended consequences of trying to enforce the bizarre laws and regulations of every country in the world. Sure, let's have environmental laws written in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Russia, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the other paragons of environmentalism and democracy imposed on American citizens and have them imprisoned for violations of laws not even enforced in the home country.

    I should probably be jailed by the United States for my own violations of local laws, to wit:

    1. I travel and work at times in completely non-democratic countries which prohibit the export of their manipulated currency. If I export a piece of currency (made of linen and perhaps some wood pulp, thus perhaps something with a Lacey Act angle) worth all of 2 cents as a souvenir, should I not be prosecuted on return to the United States by my own government?

    2. I was in Kabul last year and found that it is illegal to export even the smallest raw piece of Lapis Lazuli, a blue semi-precious stone normally hacked out of a mine or quarry. It has to be "polished" by locals in order to be exported (thus, the issue is not the stone, but protecting a local 'labor" issue -- polishing -- and all one has to do is to polish one side of the stone. But, I brought out a piece of unpolished rock anyhow. Yet another U.S. federal crime, no doubt.

    I guess I should be sitting in a federal pen right now for my violation of these foreign laws. I suggest Congress get busy and really get serious about enforcing foreign laws. It's also also illegal to import a Bible into North Korea or to try to convert a Saudi, or a Pakistani, or an Afghan citizen to Christianity (this latter crime could result in a death sentence). Let's enforce those laws on Americans, too, while we are at it.

    I get the slippery slope aspect, though it's likely the case with any cultural or political stance, what is unfortunate is this had been generally good - a rarity.  This should help American business - an overseas company can't flood the market with cheap guitars made from illegal wood sold by mass murdering warlords to fund terrorism - but instead it cost Gibson millions and over what?  How much work is done on a fretboard?   I would hope the Justice Dept. has more important things on their minds, though it's par for the course at the Fish&Wildlife Commission.
    Gerhard Adam
    Actually, the problem is much deeper than this one issue and that's a fundamental flaw in the concept of "law" itself.  Instead of the law being a vehicle for obtaining justice, we've turned it into a technical quagmire, where every possible nuanced interpretation is capable of being abused and even used to produce outcomes different from the original intent.

    In short, we are too focused on interpreting the letter of the law, instead of the intent of the law.  For that I squarely blame the attorneys that have taken the absurdity of the legal system to new heights. overseas company can't flood the market with cheap guitars made from illegal wood sold by mass murdering warlords to fund terrorism..
    In this case, the problem is equally clear.  Economics doesn't assess one's moral or ethical position when it comes to production.  So short of arbitrarily declaring certain countries or governments off-limits with respect to business, any attempt to control the flow of such goods legally, is doomed to target the wrong individuals.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thanks, Mr. Campbell. But, I think the core issue is the law itself. I disagree that U.S. citizens should be tried and convicted for violating other countries' laws, particularly when a foreign country writes a poor law, does not enforce its own laws, or is using the law to protect something other than the intention of the Lacey Act. Let the United States write its own laws and apply U.S. laws to U.S. citizens -- otherwise, what is the point of being a citizen of a political entity called the United States? The slippery slope is exactly what you get with this kind of very murky statute writing and slapdash thinking and the Gibson case is what one should expect. So, if one supports the idea that some rinky-dink foreign locale should impose its law on a U.S. citizen residing inside the United States, that is a argument one can take. I disagree with it but, as you put it, that's the law. I am opposed to this notion because it is inherently wrong-headed and because it allows too much discretion for abuse of authority by every functionary of the U.S. government who chooses to "interpret" a foreign law or regulation in any way he or she chooses. The Gibson case is a good example as is some poor guy jailed for years for legally importing lobsters in an alleged illegal box. The idea that anyone should have to be jailed or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending oneself from this is simply outrageous and everyone should be shocked. A legal case like Gibson is facing will cost a very pretty penny. Perhaps the upper middle class likes this kind of thing because they can absorb the sticker increase on guitars and guitar products to to pay for the legal bills, but why support driving guitar prices higher for everyone else? Not to mention some official's cheeky comment, as you noted, that it is best to do this work abroad. Is this the type of government we really want? I am not in the Tea Party, but this type of arbitrary use of state power is the kind of thing that fuels an enormous distaste for government in general. Nothing but rule after rule after rule, with an army of functionaries to enforce, interpret, and at times bribe. Shoot, maybe we are getting more and more like India, land of red tape run amok.

    Lastly, Gibson does not deserve any break on this issue. That's rent seeking. If one can go to jail for importing lobsters or a piece of wood in violation of a foreign law, then it is only fair that Gibson be punished for breaking the same law. Sauce for the goose.

    Tear down the Lacey Act. Every power granted to the government will be abused sooner or later.

    One could also ask why Gibson was importing these rare woods, the harvesting of which does so much environmental damage - are there no sustainable and indeed native American woods that could be used? (Answer: Yes, but they aren't able to command markups of thousands of percent by using them)

    You don't know anything about guitars.   You can use something like spruce from Sitka for the body but for the tops, necks and fretboards the woods you use depend on the sound quality.   No one is buying a guitar because of wood, they are buying it because of sound.

    Guitarists, as I have said, are incredibly responsible about wood.   This allegation that they are doing environmental damage and not using sustainable woods is something a militant environmental group like EIA invented.
    Sorry, but you know nothing about guitars. I am a luthier and guitar builder. Spruce is a soft wood used for tops - which is the main sound making component on the guitar. It is not suitable for backs and sides or necks or fret parse or bridges as it is too soft. However the mythic about rosewood is a fashion affectation not science backed. Blind listening tests by musicians and critics have shown time and again that they cannot tell what angular is made from. There is virtually no effect on sound from the material of the back or fretboard or bridge, as long as they are suitably hard materials. (See Taylor's guitar made from an oak pallet, or the many guitars now being made from native woods in the USA and around the world from woods like walnut, cherry, persimmon, Osage, acacia, maple and other timbers.) Dean make acoustic guitars in Ash. I have used chestnut, laburnum and elm. The nonsense talked about tonewoods (which is largely a creation of marketing by luthiers in the past) could be swept away by a fee big companies like Gibson if they put their minds to it.

    I have to fill in a Lacey declaration if I export a guitar to the States - and I can say precisely what every species is that went into one of my guitars. None of it came from endangered rainforest.

    As for the damage to Madagascar - do some basic reading, or go and see. Justbecauseenvironmentalists say it is bad does not mean that it is good! As for the rosewood in India - yes it is an almost sustainable production well controlled by the Indian government, but in other countries (because rosewood sinks) the logs are rafted down river by cutting half a dozen less dense trees to tie them up and make floats.

    However the mythic about rosewood is a fashion affectation not science backed. 
    It's funny to hear a supposed luthier say that tone is an affectation and that the wood makes no difference in the sound. 

    Anyway, good luck with your declaration - again, Gibson had all the right paperwork.  If the government decides your paperwork is wrong, much less false - even if the falsehood is not on your part - you are screwed until they fix this.

    You're on Madagascar again, despite me saying that is politically subjective.  The government before the new one was lousy too and logging was just as 'illegal' - anything is illegal if people want to claim it is.
    I've been a major materials vendor in the guitar industry since 1967, and can personally verify that LMII (who shipped the Indian wood to Gibson) physically holds notarized paperwork dated July 13th, 2011, from the Government of India Ministry of Commerce and Industry and signed by Daya Shankar, the Deputy Director of Foreign Trade, which states under “Subject – Clarification regarding export of Fingerboards made of Rose Wood and Ebony” that "…the Fingerboards made of Rose wood and Ebony [ITC (HS) Code 92099200] is freely exportable", and that "This issues with the approval of Director General of Foreign Trade.”

    A couple of things need clarification. The wood was not being shipped from India to Gibson, but from India to LMII's Nashville storage facility which they pay storage fees on (and was invoiced to LMII, not Gibson). LMII was bringing it in to fill an order they had from Gibson, and the wood was being drop-shipped to the storage address that Gibson also uses and which is close to their factory, making wood transfers quick and easy.

    The Indian government obviously understands the fingerboard material to be an instrument part that has been worked as much as possible exclusively by native labor. Processing it any further would make it a different item, being both impractical and impossible for India to do, since each guitar manufacturer needs to do proprietary work from that point on, and Indian quality control is completely not up to making useable final parts -- as witnessed by the junk quality "finished" guitar and violin fingerboards that do arrive here through eBay and other sources.

    The paperwork had the correct tariff number as approved in writing by the Indian government when it left India, but then a brokerage service mis-entered another number which applies to veneers and not the fingerboard blanks. Since the export from India was completely legal and signed off at the Indian port, what reasons would LMII then have to change the paperwork since there was nothing to hide? Without the clerical error the shipment would have been cleared and never challenged by U.S. authorities. LMII's mistake in naming their customer (Gibson) as the ultimate consignee when in fact LMII was the consignee compounded the misunderstanding and triggered the raids.

    In the normal course of any business mistakes like this frequently occur and are easily corrected. Inconsistent tariff codes are something that's happened on a couple of our own shell import shipments when some desk jockey at the brokerage decides to change the correct tariff codes we supply (thus instantly converting a load of shell blanks into a shipment of "jewelry", for instance!). Making the same errors on federal documents usually means having to amend or re-file and waste a lot of extra time; but with Gibson already under investigation it's probably understandable why the feds were more than willing to assume the worst and jump on the chance to really nail the company. Ironically (and speaking from personal experience), government agencies are among the worst offenders when it comes to screwing up names, numbers, and other details on paperwork they process, so they're not exactly walking the high road on error-free paperwork either...

    Here’s my summary of the Gibson situation. India has for many years officially ruled that fingerboards (in their blank form) are legal to export, and that official Clarification is something that can't be argued by the U.S. government or anyone else (I have copies of the latest from July 13, 2011). This ruling is nothing new, since India has allowed many millions of fingerboards to be exported for decades with no problem. There are also other factors involved:

    1) The U.S. has absolutely no laws prohibiting the use of Indian (or Madagascar!) rosewood and ebony as such, only general laws that require no tribal, state, national or international laws have been violated.

    2) The Indian wood issue has anything at all to do with overharvesting, illegal logging, or any other environmental issues. Veneers, guitars or anything else made of these same Indian woods would have been completely legal.

    3) The supposed violations named in Special Agent Rayfield's warrant affidavit concern his private interpretation of Indian law about semi-finished raw materials or component parts. Lacey doesn't allow the U.S. to disagree or argue about another country's regulations, only to enforce their compliance (which in the matter of India were being complied with according to their own written document).

    4) There's court precedent in U.S. law which establishes that an enforcement agency's interpretation of a regulation does not hold the same power of argument as the simple wording of the regulation itself.

    5) Lacey is what's called a "fact-based" as opposed to a "document-based" statute. In other words, simply possessing legitimate-looking paperwork won't protect anyone from confiscation, fines or imprisonment if indeed laws really were broken. It's the same legal principle that has always applied in U.S. mining law, that it's not how technically accurate the filed paperwork description of a claim's boundaries are but how it's actually marked out and posted on the ground.

    Several complicating and confusing glitches were made on the paperwork from LMII's Indian ebony shipment, but what counts is whether or not any actual regulations were violated. They certainly don't seem to have been (in the case of India, at least), but it's up to the courts and not us to decide guilt or innocence. Hopefully, they'll toss this one out no matter how foolish it makes Special Agent Rayfield and the USFWS appear.

    The Madagascar wood remains problematic since it does involve endangered trees, logging in a national forest, and a questionable state of political unrest in the country at the time the wood was exported with questions about the government's validity as a legitimately recognized power.

    Hopefully, they'll toss this one out no matter how foolish it makes Special Agent Rayfield and the USFWS appear.

    The Madagascar wood remains problematic since it does involve endangered trees, logging in a national forest, and a questionable state of political unrest in the country at the time the wood was exported with questions about the government's validity as a legitimately recognized power.
    Terrific insight!  I agree, the Madagascar situation was one thing and, had it been a one-off, not much could be done. It seems arbitrary to penalize Madagascar but we recognize the legitimacy of some guy in Arabia who changes the name of the country to be his personal name. 

    In your estimation, why aren't these mistakes happening with Taylor or Martin?  How does a group like  Environmental Investigation Agency have access to this paperwork, since they seem to be hammering on Gibson quite hard?
    Don't know whether relevant:

    One of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Company. The C.E.O., Chris Martin IV, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the past couple of elections (though, to be fair, he did donate a whopping $750 to Republican Congressmen in the 90s.) According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood.” In case you were wondering, that is the exact same wood in at least ten of Gibson’s guitars.

    As one blogger says:

    Well, when you’ve got a President who jokes about tax audits as revenge for a personal slight, it’s hard not to be suspicious, isn’t it?

    This is why an astute President never jokes about such things. But this is not a very astute President.

    Gibson has been in all the right causes too, that Forest Stewardship Council was a useless organization seeming to exist only to raise money to do stuff but activists loved it, and they work with Greenpeace, Rainforest Alliance etc., so I don't see direct donations being an issue. 

    It could be the government needing busy work over a paperwork glitch, but they have been on the company for two years.  The fact that no one else is being raided means either it is completely vindictive (so maybe some revenge thing) or they have a rock solid case.   It still seems that they are getting a lot of negative publicity at a time when the President needs a lot less negativity - when times are good, you can be anti-business, but not when times are bad.
    The Lacey Primer (see: states that for paper or electronic submissions, the steps used in processing any submission will include:

    "Declarations vetted for accuracy and compliance."
    "Importer contacted if vetting reveals errors."

    But LMI's Natalie Swango says this not only didn't happen, but that USFWS refused to talk to them when the error was discovered and they tried to get it corrected:

    "The broker for LMI had someone new working in their office who listed the "entry" as veneers <6mm despite all other paperwork listing it as sawn wood and fingerboards in excess of 6mm. The broker sent a letter explaining the error and attempted to contact USFWS to correct the entry, but they refused to speak to him. A copy of the letter was sent to LMI as well as USFWS.”

    Agency incompetence is one possibility for the lack of response; but it seems far more likely that the paperwork discrepancies understandably made Gibson appear to be involved in some "smuggling" scheme, with USFWS enforcement quickly mobilized and communication with anyone outside the agency prohibited for fear of a security breachsecurity reasons. Not being under investigation/surveilance, any paperwork glitches byTaylor and Martin would be open to correction through normal vetting procedures.

    Here is the problem. If you look at how the government treats Boeing after you read what I post you will see this isn’t a far stretch to think they are doing the same to Gibson. I also play a guitar so this hits close to home as they may come after personal guitars soon enough. Gibson is the only guitar company targeted by the Obama DOJ under the Lacey Act.

    Tennessee is a right-to-work state.

    Fender, Taylor, Rickenbacker, Danelectro, Carvin, MusicMan, and ESP are in California;
    Spector is in New York;
    Martin is in Pennsylvania;
    Guild, Ovation, and Hamer are in Connecticut;
    Alvarez is in Missouri;
    B.C. Rich is in Kentucky;
    Heritage is in Michigan;
    Washburn is in Illinois.

    All are forced-union states.

    Peavey is another guitar and electronics company, located in the right-to-work state of Mississippi.

    Since 2009, Peavey has been the target of multiple lawsuits filed by a competitor, MUSIC Group, which alleges that Peavey products fail to meet federal safety and emissions standards. However, the emissions in question do not happen during the production of equipment. It has to do with the end-user pollution. The claim is that Peavey amplifiers release too much electromagnetic radiation.
    Music Group Feels strong competition from Peavey as peavey sells a number of lower priced amplifiers and sound reinforcement items. Music Group is not a brand in its self yet encompasses a number of brands that are mostly foreign made. Music Group brands are Midas, Klark Teknik, Behringer, Bugera, and Eurotec.
    It makes sense if the government wants to overreach and protect a union to attack a company that is successful, Iconic, world recognized and a strong exporter (Gibson exports at least 60% of their products). This would send a message to other companies to fall in line or face the wrath of the Government. Top that with cases setting precedence against Gibson.

    It makes sense if the government wants to overreach and protect a union to attack a company that is successful, Iconic, world recognized and a strong exporter (Gibson exports at least 60% of their products).
    I agree some of their behavior has been suspicious.  I mentioned the Boeing issue while I praised Steven Chu (and therefore Pres. Obama) for coming to his senses about the recent ozone restrictions.
    McKinley was president in 1900, not Roosevelt.

    Indeed, he had not been assassinated yet so Roosevelt was still VP.  Apologies for the error.  I was confusing this version with the 1907 in signatures.
    What Indian law are you referring to.

    That whole verbage keeps being bantered but I see no reference to any law or actual documentation.

    For a guitarist-back-story polymath such as myself (polymath: including CompSci and other-rigorous-sci/math; serious art music composer and filmmaker, adult multi-self launched as a union lounge-lizard, or weasel guitarist at age 15. Having owned a Melody Maker, Byrdland [waited 3.5 years for it by dint of rare wood issue] and an SG Standard) -- this articulate and understandably respectful, objective, successfully scholarly article, with vigorous classical rhetorical transactions, represents yet another reason for feeling it an honour to have been granted membership here at Sidebar: I walked past the topical factory, twice a day, while in Memphis (also for 3.5 years). A storm (it rains in Memphis almost as if it was Peru) once took out a corner of the one-story brick building. It did not take long to fix that, though some beautiful instruments were blown away (themselves; ironic diction intentional). We hope this one is as quickly resolved -- with improvements in 'Over All' performance as counterpoint.
    "What do YOU care what other people THINK?" -- Richard P. Feynman
    As to why it appears that Gibson is being "singled out", the previous post should explain why they're not quite as clueless as they'd like everyone to believe. It must also be understood that the November, 2009, Gibson raid was the very first enforcement action on plant materials under the Lacey regs as revised in 2008. Of course this now placed Gibson in the enforcement spotlight, so it appears the feds have been monitoring Gibson's subsequent activities hoping to catch them doing something else wrong. This makes it a major "test case", the outcome of which will establish important court precedents that will be used from then on. Because the last phase of Lacey regarding pianos and guitars was implemented only on April 1, 2010, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is probably holding back on confronting other big dogs such as Martin, Taylor, Fender, and PRS until their case against Gibson is resolved.

    It may well be that USFWS also has hopes that Gibson’s iconic stature and high visibility will work in their favor to publicly demonstrate the U.S. is aggressively enforcing environmental violations. This could, and already may be, backfiring on them especially if Gibson winds up being vindicated, even partially, in court. My guess is that they’ll be convicted on the 2009 Madagascar citations and walk free on the completely separate Indian charges.

    This would imply that a smart company like Gibson paid lobbyists, as did other guitar companies, and teamed up with environmental activists to get the 2008 revision passed knowing they were going to be raided when it was passed - in other words, they are both stupid and self-destructive.

    You have some fine points but they are interpretive.  Your conclusion and attempts to proscribe motivation are all wrong.
    Lacey and its later amendments were the result of heavy lobbying by NGO's such as the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and several others. Although the music industry supported the intent of Lacey they never lobbied for it because of perceived vagueness and ambiguities in the wording, and the potential for abusive enforcement. Lacey was also opposed by the NRA for much the same reasons.

    Excerpted from a good history on Lacey found at a Michigan State University site (

    "F. 1981 Combination of the Lacey and Black Bass Acts

    "The Lacey Act's enforcement provisions were also expanded, allowing federal wildlife agents to carry firearms, make warrantless arrests for felony violations, and execute search and arrest warrants. [FN162]

    "These changes were not unopposed. The National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, claiming to represent the interests of ordinary hunters, argued against inclusion of a felony penalty, elimination of the double intent requirement and the increased arrest and investigatory powers granted to Fish and Wildlife Service agents. [FN163] They warned that a stronger, more easily enforced Lacey Act would result in abusive investigations by the Fish and Wildlife Service and unfair convictions of law-abiding sportsmen. [FN164]

    "Proponents of a stronger Lacey Act included the National Wildlife Federation, International Primate Protection League, TRAFFIC, [FN165] Society for Animal Protective Legislation, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and the Wildlife Management Institute. [FN166] In their testimony, these groups described the increasing pressures on global wildlife populations and the increasing volume of the illegal wildlife trade. [FN167] The very nature of these proponents indicated that the Lacey Act had shifted in importance from a domestic antipoaching statute to one that would address the problems of international trade. The TRAFFIC representative, for example, testified that a Uruguayan delegate to a recent CITES [FN168] convention noted the obligation of "rich nations to check the illegal trade at their end because relatively poor countries, like Uruguay, should not be expected to control their long and remote borders." [FN169] Supportive testimony also came from the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Department of Justice. [FN170] These agencies favored enhanced penalties because of their perception that prior sentences had not created a sufficient deterrent to wildlife traffickers whose profits and sophistication were continually growing. [FN171]"

    Both the organizations you claim were instrumental in the last revision are actually quite useless.  Environmental Investigation Agency is not designed to help the environmental at all and the FSC has been essentially a pointless committee.

    Thanks for copying and pasting a bunch of stuff but it added nothing at all to your claims.  Bob Taylor is going to be very surprised to find all the articles he wrote and work he did supporting 2008 was marginalized by militant kooks who claim to care about the environment.

    Maybe you do not know how Congress works but loud crazy people in activist groups have very little traction and even less clout when it comes to writing law.  And EIA is a poster child for crazy, loud activists, they just try to take credit now for both the Act and for Gibson being harangued.
    In this case, I am not getting what all the flap is about Lacey 2008. Would not the same suspected illegal importation basis been valid pre-2008? Nor do I quite understand why this is deemed a "test case" - other industries have had many similar cases about classification and illegal imports dating way before 2008. As far as I can tell, NY 881630 had established that.

    Quote: "Do you really think FWS meant "finished" the way you are trying to convince folks they are?"
    Response: Absolutely, since the 2009 search warrant affiadvit lists at some length all the factory steps involved in bringing a board to the final, fretted and inlaid state.

    Quote: "I don't know if the entire "purpose" of the Harmonized System was to "ensure that the country of origin benefitted from “value added” native labor."
    Response: The entire system's purpose wasn't what was being referenced, only the two classifications 4407 and 9209.92.00 "in combination" with each other.

    Quote: "...are those things LMII sells just 'inferior'?"
    Response: No they're not. There are a number of different systems for radiusing boards, some a single radius and others compound, as well as the use of various radiii. Many boards remain flat (as on most classical guitars and banjos). LMI does excellent work, and offers several scale and radius choices to small shop builders who typically don't have equipment for doing these operations themselves. Other boutique luthiers and factories process their own boards using a broad range of proprietary scale formulae and fixtures, and very fine tolerances must be held. Mexico, India, China, and Asia are notoriously undependable when it comes to delivering consistently high quality, a constant battle for us even after 20 years of having product made in S. Korea, Indonesia, China, Viet nam, and the Philippines.

    But beyond that even if a slotted, tapered and crowned board were to be imported and used, the last thing to go into it are the frets, usually close to the final stages of the guitar being built and finished. But USFWS is defining a "finished" fingerboard as one in which all stages up to and including fret wire installation have been done -- this is because just installing and dressing the frets involves enough added labor to disqualify it from the 9209.92.00 parts class.

    Quote: " regard to [LMI's] ebony - 'All of our Ebony is harvested in Africa.'"
    That note (at this time) holds true for all the Madagascar and West African ebony currently held as old-stock inventory, but no more can be imported. They also have Malaysian and Indian ebony.

    Quote: "'Indian Rosewood Neck Blanks..." "...large enough for necks have reported a dramatic contribution to the tone of the instrument."
    Response: This is more sales hype than anything. Neck weight (and even just the peghead density) is acoustically critical and can indeed create dramatic differences. But the relative scarcity of its use as a neck material is because most (not all) builders don't care for the type of "dramatic change" this heavy wood produces; it's a delicate balance between tone, sustain, and volume, and accenting one usually means compromising another (rather like "price, service, quality -- choose any two").

    Quote: "Pearl Sheets example; does it get classified as 9209 - "parts"? My guess is it falls under 0508..."
    Response: Not 9209 ("finished"parts), and not 0508 ("shell unworked or simply prepared but not cut to shape", which refers to raw or cleaned whole shells or tumbled pieces). Shell blanks, veneers, and laminated sheets are classified as 9601.90.2000 (articles of worked shell").

    The great critiques and suggestions are sincerely appreciated, since (for me at least) this isn't about "winning" an argument but trying to figure out some solutions to very real issues which at the moment could seriously cripple several traditional American industries. I'm presenting the best info and personal analysis I can and am completely willing to modify opinions and conclusions as better evidence and brain power may dictate. The suggestion about looking at HTS 4421.90.97 will be passed along, so thanks for pointing that out!

    Any scumbag who even remotely attempts to defend the Obama administration's actions against Gibson is nothing but a vacuous moron with the intellect of a gnat. That means you, sir! You fucking piece of shit...take your sick, twisted, despicable rationalizations somewhere else. This is an OUTRAGE! And you are a disgusting, treasonous skin sack. Period.

    Intelligent. Comment and excellent example of a well thought out response.

    The government wants even more wood from Gibson now.  All based on the claim of Fish and Wildlife Service agent Kevin Seiler that the Indians object to exporting the wood (they don't) because it was exported without some glue slapped on a part.

    This kind of story will become a poster child for Obama' anti-business problems, if Solyndra doesn't ruin him.
    I'm wondering how much wood that was seized was bought before 2008. I would assume Gibson would be aging some of the wood for later use. I disagree with the luthier, that I've heard guitars with the same pickups as mine that sounds different because of the wood and age. A Strat does not sounds the same as a LP even with the same pickups.

    and if the government comes for my Acoustic, they can have it...when they pry it from my cold, dead hands

    First - there is nothing common about sense. And using those words mutually when referring to government employees emphasizes this point. Second - In Canada we simply bring the workers here to finish the wood.
    Simple solution to a complicated problem. Seriously though, the precedent being set is a very dangerous one.
    To apply concepts from 1910 to the problems of 20xx only serves to give meaning to worthless jobs (aka the Feds
    running this mockery). If the same mentality spills over to products such as steel - oh wait.
    It has already. Yep, more jobs gone.
    If the wood was declared as endangered worldwide, then ya, kill the people at Gibson. If animals were injured
    in the testing of finishes, ya, they should pay! But, this is an obscure Indian law being interpreted by a foreign country (USA is foreign to India believe it or not) as a violation to protection of Indian jobs.
    I don't get it.
    The obvious solution is to stop buying from India. That way we kill jobs there too!
    Can life really be that simple? If Walmart pisses me off, i go somewhere else. See how much that hurts Walmart!
    But Gibson cannot do that.
    And since India didn't complain, I REALLY don't get it. Someone please explain why the government is involved.
    I am SO glad to be in Canada, eh!

    (I love Walmart BTW)

    You identified the wood in question as Indian Ebony. Another major wood confiscated is Indian Rosewood. The bulk of all Gibson guitars on the electric side far and away use indian rosewood, including virtually all les pauls, SG's and other staple guitars for Gibson. These days, to buy a new Les Paul means it will come with Baked maple (sometimes called roasted maple) for a fretboard, which is maple that has been darkened to a rosewood-like appearance through a heat process. Or they've also been using totally synthetic products as well. The effect on tone may be debatable, but the effect on resale value isn't.. Any Gibson guitar with a non rosewood/non ebony fingerboard will have a resale stigma attached to it that will kill its future value.