Lumber Liquidators Plea Deal
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On October 7, 2015, Lumber Liquidators, the largest hardwood flooring retailer in the United States, pleaded guilty yesterday to violations of the Lacey Act and agreed to pay more than $13 million in fines and penalties.
In addition to the fines and penalties imposed, Lumber Liquidators (LL) will be placed on a five year probationary period while it implements an Environmental Compliance Plan focused on compliance with the U.S. Lacey Act (also called the Lacey Act Compliance Plan). This compliance plan will radically alter the way the company sources wood products, requiring LL to document an “unbroken and verified chain of custody from itself back to the product’s source using documentation down to the forest level.” The real cost to the company will come from having to forego cheap, stolen wood in their supply chain while the Department of Justice looks over their shoulder.
This represents the first time that a major U.S. corporation has been found guilty of a felony for smuggling wood, related to violations of the U.S. Lacey Act, and sends a powerful signal that the United States will no longer traffic in stolen goods. The plea agreement confirms the allegations first made in EIA’s 2013 report, Liquidating the Forests, and stands in stark contrast to Lumber Liquidators’ consistent claims of having done no wrong.
EIA first exposed Lumber Liquidators practice of importing illegally harvested timber in its 2013 report, Liquidating the Forests. EIA’s investigation revealed that since the 2008 Lacey Act amendments became law, Lumber Liquidators imported millions of square feet of solid oak flooring from a manufacturer that freely describes its own illegal logging practices and that buys wood from suppliers that are under scrutiny by Russian authorities for illegal logging in the most threatened temperate forest in the world. Posing as timber buyers, EIA investigators went undercover to expose the illegal wood trade in the Russian Far East and traced the supply chains through manufacturing centers in China to products being sold in the United States. EIA’s report also relied on publicly available trade data, copies of court cases from Russian authorities, scientific analyses, and shipment records.
Illegal Logging in the Russian Far East: Global Demand and Taiga Destruction: WWF Russia 2013 report synthesizing over 10 years of on-the-ground field observations to detail illegal logging in key Amur tiger habitat in the Russian Far East
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