Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gibson pay tiny fine; get away with despoiling Madagascar

So, the depth of Gibson guitar's venality in importing wood from protected rainforest in India and Madagascar is unquestionable, but Gibson are still maintain they weren't to know. Professor W John Thomas of Quinnipiac University is quoted by the New York Times:

By the terms of the agreement, Gibson concedes that after traveling to Madagascar in 2008, it received a report concluding that “It is currently illegal to harvest or export ebony.” In 2009, on the advice of a Gibson employee who counseled that a German wood supplier named T.N. (Theodore Nagel) could supply the company with ebony obtained from “the grey market,” Gibson arranged for four shipments of Madagascar ebony. Furthermore, “Gibson assumed, without asking, that T.N. had undertaken to provide it with lawfully harvested and exported materials.”
Ah, yes, that old grey ebony. We all know that. Gibson, we're supposed to believe, were like the customers of Burke and Hare, delivered of a large pile of human body parts and never thinking to ask where they came from.

Gibson's now done a deal with the US government, where it pays a tiny fine:
Gibson will pay a $300,000 fine, make a $50,000 contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and forfeit wood valued at $261,000 seized in the 2009 government raid on its Nashville facilities.
Yes, the fine barely even matches the value of the wood the company had had ripped from underneath endangered species on its behalf. Pitiful.

Worse, because the US government can't quite decide on the status of the other protected wood Gibson - sorry, this totally different German company what Gibson had no reason to believe was anything other than pure than the driven, guv, honest - had procured, Gibson gets it back. That wood is worth USD155,000. As wood. By the end of turning that little lot into overpriced guitars, Gibson might even be showing a tiny profit. Well done them, eh?