When the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy last year and asked alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to step forward, roughly 84,000 did, with many hoping the legal proceeding would help usher a financial settlement—and some closure to their ordeals.
But 15 months later, those who came forward are still waiting as the Boy Scouts’ odyssey through chapter 11 approaches the finish line without a clear resolution of their claims.
Boy Scout lawyer Jessica Lauria said in a court hearing last week that the only way to preserve the organization’s mission is to reorganize it rather than liquidating assets to pay sex abuse claims. Breaking up the Boy Scouts would harm 700,000 active Scouts, she said.
But to turn the page on a legacy of sexual abuse and the resulting legal exposure, the Boy Scouts need to reach consensus with most survivors, who have the right to vote on any settlement the organization puts forth.
A central dispute concerns the financial cost of decades of child sexual abuse that the victims say the Boy Scouts failed to prevent. The organization estimates the damages due to victims at between $2.4 billion to $7 billion. The official survivors’ committee has pegged the damages at more than $100 billion.
Claimants have clashed with the youth group over its trove of real estate, investments and other holdings, probing for ways to come up with compensation for lives upended by childhood trauma. The Boy Scouts have pushed back, insisting that hundreds of millions of dollars of assets need to stay within the organization and aren’t available to victims.
where victims have been vying to strip the organization of control over its own chapter 11 case.
If the victims’ request is granted, they could propose their preferred terms for ending the bankruptcy, the largest ever filed over sexual abuse. The most recent offer on the table from the Boy Scouts carries a value of roughly $1.2 billion, plus the rights to uncertain recoveries from insurance policies.
Victims’ representatives have spurned the proposal, labeling it a “death trap” designed to pressure them into accepting a subpar deal. The upfront compensation under that offer works out on average to about $14,000 per claim, less than what victims have received from the dozens of Catholic dioceses and religious orders bankrupted by claims of clergy abuse.
The process has left many victims doubtful that the Boy Scouts can fashion a workable plan—and angry after they broke decades of silence and stepped forward at the organization’s request.
The organization encouraged survivors to file claims after it filed for bankruptcy in February 2020 but didn’t anticipate that so many men would step forward. A successful exit from bankruptcy would remove the threat of future litigation hanging over the Boy Scouts. It would also keep secret a trove of internal records of known and suspected sexual predators dating back nearly a century.