Lumber Liquidators, the largest U.S. retailer of specialty hardwood flooring, agreed last October to pay more than $13 million to settle charges related to the Lacey Act, which governs the trade of forests, fish and other wildlife. The settlement marked the first felony conviction related to illegal timber imports, plus the largest ever fine related to the law.
But a smaller investigation in Washington state also serves as an object lesson for companies with a stake in the lumber industry. The target: a local mill that sells specialty big-leaf maple wood to PRS Guitars, whose instruments are strummed by the likes of Carlos Santana, Journey, the Doobie Brothers and many other artists.
The case is unusual in that it’s focused on maple, not exotic imported woods as in other high-profile investigations. It also marks the first time that federal prosecutors have indicted a miller owner, since the 115-year-old law was amended in 2008.