The Boy Scouts of America, an organization whose oath requires “…duty to God, country and Scout law,” has been dogged for years by major allegations and lawsuits stemming from child sexual abuse, including severe rape cases.
On July 1, however, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) took a step forward in putting the past behind it when it announced an $850 million settlement with 60,000 accusers.
Attorneys for some of the victims believe the dollar amount will not be enough. Insurance companies tasked with funding the payout to the thousands of victims do not support it. Still, lawyers for the Boy Scouts believe the settlement can help the organization come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy by later this year.
Officials at the national headquarters of the BSA in Irvine, Texas, maintained files detailing decades of allegations involving thousands of volunteers who abused young men for decades. However, in 2019, more former scouts came forward, identifying many more abusers after several states changed the statute of limitations laws. The changes created temporary “windows’’ allowing sex abuse victims more time to file lawsuits against individuals (and institutions they were involved with).
More than 250 new lawsuits were filed, and in February 2020, the organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while announcing it planned, through the process, to compensate victims through a specific fund. The move was similar to other organizations dealing with widespread sexual abuse cases like USA Gymnastics and several Catholic dioceses.
For more than a year, attorneys for the Boy Scouts have struggled. The BSA has come up against claimants, including those pursuing compensation through the organization’s real estate and other holdings. On June 1, saying it is attempting to stay the course to emerge from bankruptcy in the coming months, the Boy Scouts announced the deal with victims.
The settlement terms require the national organization and about 250 local councils to contribute a combined $850 million to abuse claimants. The claimants will also be entitled to the Boy Scouts’ rights to insurance policies.
Attorneys for all involved were quick to react.
Lawyer Ken Rothweiler, whose firm represents more than 16,000 alleged victims, applauded the settlement. He told NPR in an emailed statement, “I am pleased that both the BSA and their local councils have stepped up to be the first to compensate the survivors.”
However, other attorneys, like Tim Kosnoff, believe the dollar amount is not large enough. Kosnoff, who co-founded the advocacy group, Abused in Scouting, told NPR that the settlement is a “failure’’ and noted it would not be final until a judge signs off on it. “You’re talking about clients who, in some cases, were anally raped for years that are now supposed to get payouts of $3,500 … maybe $5,000,” he said. “That is an insult to all of the men who found the courage to file claims and participated in this process.”
Perhaps the most severe disagreement comes from insurers who will be tasked with funding a large portion of the payout.
In a joint statement after the settlement announcement, insurers wrote: “With only the fox guarding the henhouse, the outcome is utterly at odds with what BSA itself asserted was necessary for a confirmable plan and is permissible under the bankruptcy code.”
Six days after the deal was announced, at a July 7 status hearing, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein provided insurers, along with attorneys for abuse victims and local scout sponsoring organizations, more time to gather information and file objections by moving the preliminary July 20 court hearing to July 29.
Silverstein also moved a hearing on whether or not to approve a disclosure statement that outlines the Boy Scouts’ latest reorganization plan, a necessary step before victims and other creditors can vote on the reorganization plan.
Exactly how long the process will take and when the victims will be compensated is still not known. In a report for PBS, Attorney Rothweiler was asked how long he thought the process would take. He believes the answer can not be determined for another few months.
“It depends how much the insurers fight us,” he said. “If they come to the table and will talk to us, we could get this done by the end of the year. If they don’t do that, then we will have to litigate against them. And we have got a lot of good lawyers involved in this bankruptcy that are ready to litigate against the major insurance companies. So, we will have to wait and see.”