Many Scout victims find little solace as bankruptcy draws to a close

When the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy last year and called on alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward, about 84,000 did so, with many hoping the legal process would help reach a settlement. financial settlement and put an end to their hardship.

But 15 months later, those who have stepped forward are still waiting for the Boy Scouts’ odyssey through Chapter 11 to approach the finish line without a clear resolution to their demands.

Boy Scout lawyer Jessica Lauria told a court hearing last week that the only way to preserve the organization’s mission was to reorganize it rather than liquidate assets to pay for sexual abuse claims. Separating the Scouts would hurt 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 must reach consensus with most of the survivors, who have the right to vote on any settlement proposed by the organization.

Closed-door mediation sessions and more than $ 100 million spent on legal fees have not closed the gap between demand and supply. The Boy Scouts have made progress in recent days towards a potential deal with a coalition of law firms that represent the bulk of victims who have filed child abuse complaints, people familiar with the matter said.

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy in February 2020, amid a drop in membership for the century-old organization. This is how the largest youth organization in the country ended up in bankruptcy. Photo: Rick Bowmer / Associated Press (Video of 03/02/20)

But the Boy Scouts are further removed from a separate official committee of survivors, other people said. A court hearing that was scheduled for Monday, where a judge was to decide whether or not to allow victims to vote on the Boy Scout settlement, has been delayed for a week, so that talks can continue.

A central dispute concerns the financial cost of decades of child sexual abuse that victims say Boy Scouts have failed to prevent. The organization estimates the damage due to the victims between 2.4 and 7 billion dollars. The official committee of survivors assessed the damage at more than $ 100 billion.

In recent weeks, the Boy Scouts said that “tremendous progress has been made as we continue to work with survivors, insurers and others in the case towards a global resolution that will fairly compensate survivors. and will ensure the continuation of the mission of Scouting “. The Boy Scouts did not respond to a request to comment on the state of negotiations on Friday.

The organization apologized to those it failed to protect from sexual predators and pledged to fairly compensate survivors. The bankruptcy filing, filed in February last year, was meant to facilitate a settlement, stop a race to claim the organization’s assets and secure compensation from victims faster and more effectively than they could hope for. through litigation.

The plaintiffs clashed with the youth group over its hoard of real estate, investments and other assets, seeking ways to find compensation for the lives shattered by childhood trauma. The Boy Scouts backed down, insisting that hundreds of millions of dollars in assets must remain with the organization and are not available to victims.

The organization claims to have some of the strongest security programs in place in the country. The Boy Scouts said they couldn’t afford to drag out the process any longer and needed to reach a settlement and come out of bankruptcy by the end of the summer.

“We’re at the tipping point, Your Honor,” Ms Lauria said last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, where victims were vying to strip the organization of control over her own Chapter 11 case. .

If the victims’ request is granted, they could come up with their preferred terms to end the bankruptcy, the largest ever filed for sexual abuse. The most recent offer on the Boy Scouts table is worth about $ 1.2 billion, plus rights to uncertain collections from insurance policies.

Representatives for victims rejected the proposal, calling it a “death trap” designed to push them into accepting a below-average deal. Initial compensation under this offer averages around $ 14,000 per claim, less than what victims have received from dozens of failed Catholic dioceses and religious orders over allegations of abuse of the clergy.

The process has left many victims in doubt that the Boy Scouts can come up with a workable plan – and angry after breaking decades of silence and stepping forward at the organization’s behest.


“If this does not have a financial resolution for the victims, these scars will be open wounds for life”


– Doug Kennedy, former scout

“What happened to us is a scar and it will never go away,” said Doug Kennedy, 59, a professor at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, who said he was sexually assaulted as a teenager during a camping trip with boy scouts. New York. “And if that doesn’t have a financial resolution for the victims, these scars will be open wounds for life.”

The organization encouraged survivors to file claims after filing for bankruptcy in February 2020, but did not anticipate that so many men would show up. A successful exit from bankruptcy would eliminate the threat of future litigation hanging over the Boy Scouts. He is also said to keep a secret mine of internal archives of known and suspected sexual predators dating back nearly a century.

The current legal exposure also threatens the financial health of some 250 local Scout Councils spread across the country, which hold most of the organization’s wealth but are not themselves bankrupt.

Doug Parker, who said he was sexually assaulted as a child by the New Jersey Boy Scouts, said he was frustrated with the lack of information about the abuse disclosed regarding local councils. The bankruptcy process was supposed to help end abused people in the Boy Scouts, but the lack of progress so far has been insulting, he said.

“It seems they really don’t care,” said Mr. Parker, 71, who lives in East Windsor, NJ. “They just don’t care, and it’s very upsetting.”

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Hundreds of victims wrote to the judge, expressing their views and telling their stories. Many details of the abuse remain hidden under the redactions put in place by the bankruptcy court before the documents were released publicly.

“Are you kidding me?” asked John Humphrey, 59, survivor and information technology consultant in Dallas, chairman of the official bankruptcy committee representing victims. “It’s time for people to wake up and realize what’s going on in those tents, in the cars driving home, in the backyards. “

Chris Rodgers, who said he was abused as a child in New Jersey, said the organization’s efforts to protect its assets and those of local councils give the impression that it does not treat victims with respect appropriate.

“They really have to make sure these claims are settled in an honorable way. And the way they do it is not honorable. Lives have been destroyed, mine in particular, ”said Mr. Rodgers, 45, who lives in Shoreham, NY. “They’re basically doing this dance, kind of stomping on those lives that have kind of been lost.

Write to Peg Brickley at peg.brickley@wsj.com and Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com

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