JAMES CITY COUNTY -- The founder of Lumber Liquidators, the Toano-based flooring giant, pulled up quick and fast to a group of protesters blocking the entrance to his company's headquarters.
On Friday, Greenpeace activists had two cars in the entrance and unfurled a banner that read "Amazon wood, your $hare of forest crime."
As protesters sat chained to their cars, traffic backed up with employees trying to get to work. At least a half dozen James City County police officers stayed on scene throughout the morning.
At one point, a protester suspended on the stand holding the banner fell from his perch roughly 20 feet in the air and landed on a car beneath him. The protester was checked by medics and walked away unharmed.
The protest comes on the morning of Lumber Liquidators' annual shareholders meeting, the first since federal investigators raided the company's headquarters last September.
The company has been accused of purchasing wood harvested illegally in China and, more recently, Brazil.
Earlier this month, Greenpeace leveled new allegations against Lumber Liquidators, saying it was knowingly purchasing wood illegally cut down in the Amazon rain forest but was being sold with valid paperwork that belonged to other timber shipments.
In addition to the federal investigation and allegations from Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency, Lumber Liquidators has also faced at least two lawsuits over its alleged illegal sourcing practices. One lawsuit was filed in January by customers who claimed to have gotten sick after installing flooring purchased from Lumber Liquidators. The other suit was filed on behalf of shareholders. The lawsuit filed in January was voluntarily dismissed by a judge in April.
In an exclusive interview Friday morning, Lumber Liquidators founder and chairman Tom Sullivan told 13News Now the allegations are false.
"We are extremely cautious where we buy from," Sullivan said. "We buy from forests that are raised responsibly. We get the paperwork, we check it firsthand. We have people on the ground checking it. We're extremely responsible on who we buy from."
Sullivan said the company has nothing to hide.
Lumber Liquidators' chief compliance officer Ray Cotton invited one of Greenpeace's chief forest campaigners inside the company's headquarters to talk.
Greenpeace representative Daniel Brindis spoke with Lumber Liquidators executives for roughly and hour and a half about the organization's concerns. When the meeting was over, protesters decided to take down the blockade.
"We still have to wait to see if there's action and we'll see what happens this week," Brindis said after walking out of the meeting.
Sullivan said his company's critics have ulterior motives.
"A lot of people can say stuff like that," he said, adding that he stands by the wood flooring his company sells 100 percent.
"We sell good quality product, good products. We have nothing to be-- we don't hide anything. They can check everything," Sullivan said.
LUMBER LIQUIDATORS STATEMENT:
At Lumber Liquidators, we take environmental compliance very seriously and we back our commitment to responsible sourcing with real action. The policies and procedures that we have in place for the sourcing, harvesting and manufacturing of all of our products are designed to meet or exceed legal requirements. Lumber Liquidators operates in a manner intended to ensure our company is a superior corporate citizen that seeks to adhere to all applicable laws, rules and regulations wherever we do business. As such, we demand that our business partners, suppliers and distributors meet our standards and operate in an ethical, legal and sustainable manner. In addition, we commit resources around the world to monitor our processes and compliance with environmental chain of custody regulations at each step of the way until the products reach our stores. Lumber Liquidators is committed to uncompromising integrity in how we conduct ourselves individually and as a company.
Background Specifically in South America, Lumber Liquidators has done the following:
• Lumber Liquidators has devoted resources to enhance sourcing, quality, and compliance efforts throughout South America.
• Lumber Liquidators conducts reviews of new suppliers in the region that are intended to validate compliance to Lumber Liquidators and regulatory requirements. These reviews include evaluating supplier compliance to applicable manufacturing, quality, social, and environmental requirements including legal harvest and trade of wood products.
• Prior to purchase, Lumber Liquidators requires suppliers to provide evidence of legal sourcing and chain of custody of raw materials to be used to manufacture products for Lumber Liquidators. Documentation is reviewed to confirm completeness and authenticity as required.
• Lumber Liquidators conducts quality inspections of products at the factory to verify compliance to applicable technical and quality specifications prior to accepting shipments.
• Lumber Liquidators periodically conducts reviews of existing suppliers to validate ongoing compliance to requirements including manufacturing, quality, social, and environmental requirements including legal harvest and trade of wood products.
• Prior to accepting a shipment, suppliers are also required to provide complete documentation to substantiate legal harvest, sale, and chain of custody. Documentation is reviewed to confirm completeness and authenticity as required.