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Gibson CEO Looks Back on SWAT Raids

Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz recently spoke with Forbes contributor Bill Frezza about the two Federal SWAT raids on Gibson's factories that flung it into a four-year, widely publicized legal fiasco and an eventual $350,000 settlement.

Speaking to Frezza on his RealClear Radio Hour, Juszkiewicz alleges the saga was not about conservation as much as it was protectionism for the Northwest lumber industry through small provisions to the Lacey Act.

"From what I can tell, the lumber unions got together with the conservation community and their intent was to make importation of wood into the U.S. so difficult that nobody would want to do it. And then they would buy local wood," Juszkiewicz told Frezza.

The first armed raid in 2009 — in which the feds carted off half a million dollars of guitars and wood — dealt with the purchase of Ebony from Madagascar not being sufficiently processed. The second, in 2011, dealt with Indian rosewood fingerboard blanks not being processed properly and being too close to raw timber. But both warrants for the raids have been sealed to this day.

In the end, Gibson never got its day in court. It was never officially charged and, faced with incurring millions in legal fees, Gibson chose to settle in 2012 for $300,000 and gave another $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.