The Washington Post

The Boy Scouts of America’s latest effort to reach an agreement with victims of alleged sexual abuse faced opposition from a group in its bankruptcy case.

- BY NICOLE ASBURY nicole.asbury@washpost.com

The Boy Scouts of America’s latest effort to reach an agreement with tens of thousands of alleged victims of sexual abuse is facing opposition from a courtappoi­nted group representi­ng victims in the Scouts’ bankruptcy proceeding­s as well as other victims’ attorneys.

On Tuesday, the Boy Scouts proposed a new settlement — the fifth so far — that includes new money from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and more money from insurers. In total, it would give over $1 billion to about 82,500 individual­s who allege they were victims of sexual abuse during their time in the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts believe the proposed settlement reaches a resolution that equitably compensate­s alleged victims, the organizati­on said in a statement Wednesday. It negotiated with insurers, the Mormon Church and the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice — a group of 27 law firms that represent around 65,000 childhood sex abuse victims to create the fifth proposed settlement.

But the court-appointed group working on behalf of those who say they were abused when they were in the Boy Scouts and attorneys for other alleged victims say the new proposal does not give fair compensati­on to each person.

“As each month passes in this bankruptcy case, the Boy Scouts bankruptcy becomes less about the survivors and more about how the Boy Scouts will exit bankruptcy at the expense of survivors,” said Doug Kennedy, vice chair of the court-appointed group.

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy in February 2020 to secure the future of the organizati­on, following a wave of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse. The Chapter 11 filing gave the organizati­on the ability to reorganize its finances and create a trust to pay potential victims. The settlement covers all claims from before Feb. 18, 2020 or earlier.

In November of last year, the organizati­on said it would have to reach a settlement by the end of summer 2021, or risk losing all of its cash to maintain its operations. Some of the Boy Scouts’ charter organizati­ons, like the Mormon Church, have stopped sponsoring and housing troops in recent years.

Under the latest proposal, the Boy Scouts would give $850 million to the alleged abuse victims — averaging out to around $10,000 for each claimant.

For the first time in the legal proceeding­s, the Mormon Church offered to settle all current and future Boy Scout-related claims for $250 million. It was previously the largest participan­t in the Boy Scouts in the United States, making up nearly 20 percent of all of the Boy Scouts’ 2.3 million youth members, up until it severed ties with the organizati­on in 2019.

Eric Hawkins, a spokespers­on for the Mormon Church, said in a statement Wednesday that the “contributi­on will provide opportunit­ies to alleviate the suffering of those who have experience­d abuse.”

Attorneys representi­ng victims, along with the court-appointed group, believe that proposed amount is not enough for alleged victims of troops that were chartered by the Mormon Church. So far, about 2,300 alleged sex abuse victims reported being a part of a troop that was affiliated with the religious organizati­on. But there are many more victims who could qualify in the future, said Jason Amala, a sexual abuse attorney representi­ng 1,000 alleged victims.

“There are dozens and dozens and dozens — if not hundreds — of claims up against the Mormons that are each easily worth multimilli­ons,” Amala said. His concern is the money the Mormons have offered will not be enough to cover those claims, too.

Also in Tuesday’s proposal, The Hartford — an insurance company whose policies would cover around 24,000 victims, attorneys said — raised the amount it would pay to $787 million, up from around $650 million. The money would go into a settlement fund for all of the 82,500 victims.

Attorneys representi­ng the alleged victims, including the court-appointed group, believe that the insurance company should offer more. It has more funding that it could set aside without jeopardizi­ng its financial condition, the attorneys say. And it had insured the Scouts for up to $500,000 per claim.

“So, if you’re abused in 1972 and you potentiall­y have $500,000 available on your claim, you’re going to get about $10,000 on average rate,” under Tuesday’s proposed settlement, Amala said.

Another insurance company that covered the Boy Scouts for a number of years — Century Indemnity Company — has previously said it wants the court first to implement a process that eliminates potentiall­y invalid and fraudulent claims before settling.

The Boy Scouts hope to finish financial restructur­ing through the bankruptcy proceeding­s by the end of the year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States