The wild claims to martyrdom coming from Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz are being challenged by an unusual coalition of environmental groups, U.S. hardwood industry groups and unions. On a Tuesday conference call and elsewhere, they have made a number of key rebuttals to Juszkiewicz's claims.
First off, Juszkiewicz is pushing the notion that Gibson has now been raided twice because the company was somehow being specifically targeted. In fact, the Environmental Investigation Agency notes,
The affidavit indicates that the government did not realize that Gibson was the recipient of the ebony shipment in question when it was first held in Dallas due to irregular paperwork and suspicion of a Lacey Act violation; only upon investigation they found the parties in this shipment to be the same as those involved in the Madagascar ebony case already in process.
When they say "parties in this shipment," they mean parties plural: According to the EIA's Andrea Johnson, although the 2009 case involved Malagasy ebony and the 2011 case involves Indian ebony, the importer Gibson was using in 2011 was the same importer they had used in 2009. If you had been raided and were under continuing investigation for illegal activity and you really wanted to obey the law, wouldn't you start doing business with someone other than the company that had been supplying you with illegal goods?
At least in 2009, Gibson knew that what it was doing was at least potentially illegal: "Information released in affidavits and motions over the past year include excerpts from internal emails indicating that Gibson decided to buy illegal wood knowing the risks involved."
Moreover, Juszkiewicz has claimed that this was an attempt to drive jobs out of the U.S., or at least that that would be the effect of the action against him. However,
Jameson French, CEO of Northland Forest Products and the former chairman of the Hardwood Federation, a trade association, said illegal loggers evade environmental and trade laws and sell their products more cheaply than law-abiding companies can.
French said he is “flabbergasted by the misinformation that’s been put out there” by Gibson. In particular, he said that rather than costing jobs, the Lacey Act has “saved a lot of American jobs” by protecting American wood companies from illegal competition.
On Tuesday's call, Mark Barford, the executive director of the National Hardwood Lumber Association said bluntly that the Lacey Act "is our jobs act ... we need the protections of the Lacey Act, we need a fair playing field." There is a significant economic effect: Illegal logging can cost the U.S. $1 billion per year.
Additionally, there are major environmental issues. Last year, a Chatham House report estimated a 22 percent decline in illegal logging since 2002, and "The decline in illegal logging may have kept some 1.2-14.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide locked up in trees over the last decade."
Gibson currently faces a civil case from 2009 and is expected to face criminal charges in that case; the 2011 case is still being investigated. Gibson's CEO apparently prefers that things play out in the conservative media rather than the courts, which should tell you something about the level of scrutiny of the facts he thinks he can withstand.