Lawyers for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have spent the past six months saving the youth club from bankruptcy by reaching an agreement on the $2.7 billion settlement with thousands of victims of sexual abuse.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Seiber Silverstein will review the proposed settlement and begin the hearing on the Boy Scouts Chapter 11 reorganization plan on Feb. 22 in Delaware. In the days leading up to the hearing, the BSA legal team is mediating and mobilizing last-minute support for the settlement. It would become the largest sexual abuse settlement in US history if granted.
While the 112-year-old organization was forced to address allegations of abuse involving Scout leaders, volunteers and employees for many years, legal pressures intensified in 2019 when several states passed laws rescinding the statute of limitations, giving victims of sexual abuse earlier in life a new opportunity to hold perpetrators accountable.
In less than a year, the Boy Scouts of America was quickly hit with hundreds of new lawsuits, prompting their decision to file for bankruptcy protection.
The colony saw strong support and opposition and includes the Boy Scouts and its 250 councils across the country. They plan to deposit $820 million in cash and property into a fund for victims and assign certain insurance rights.
In return, local councils and national BSA organizations would be released from further liability for claims of sexual abuse.
BSA had hoped the plan would get the required approval from 75% of claimants by the end of 2021. But as of January 18, according to bankruptcy court records, they are still short of this amount. The percentage rises to 73.57 after 54,000 votes.
While the tally fell short of the BSA’s target, it exceeded the minimum required under bankruptcy law, meaning the organization could still persuade a judge to approve it. According to a recent filing, thousands of votes have yet to be counted.
Voters have until the day the bankruptcy judge hears the case to change their minds.
Why do the Boy Scout Rules have mixed reviews?
While some – including the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice ad hoc group, representing approximately 18,000 abuse seekers – have supported the settlement for months, others have frowned on it from the start, including the official committee of abuse plaintiffs appointed by the US bankruptcy trustee.
The committee said the plan is “grossly unfair” and represents only a fraction of the “potential liabilities of the parties to the agreement” and what they must and can pay.
Committee members also expressed concern that organizations like churches and civic groups that support the BSA may avoid liability for more abuse claims dating back to 1976 easily by transferring their interests in insurance policies underwritten by the BSA and local councils to the victims’ fund without having to bring in cash or existing assets.
On the other side, many opponents fear that the BSA will not be able to obtain the necessary financing. Perhaps in response to these skeptics, BSA revealed a major source of funding on December 14 by announcing a deal with Century Indemnity Co. and its affiliates. They pledged $800 million for the fund in return for immunity from further liability for abuse.
Another of the BSA’s main insurers, Hartford, has agreed to pay $787 million to the victims’ fund. And the BSA’s former biggest troop sponsor, the Mormon Church – officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – has also agreed to contribute $250 million.
Hartford and the Mormon Church will be released from further liability regarding the BSA’s child sexual abuse claims.
Some oppose the settlement because they believe the amount is simply not enough. Tim Kosnoff, the co-founder of advocacy group Abused in Scouting, told NPR last year that the settlement was a “failure” and noted that it would not be final until a judge finds out. not approved.
If the settlement is approved by the bankruptcy court, a compensation program will be put in place, under which claims will be assessed and paid based on the severity of the alleged abuse and the location where it occurred. Those in states that have suspended statutes of limitations will recover more than those in states that have not.