Boy Scouts Weighs Bankruptcy Due To Sex-Abuse Allegations (#GotBitcoin)
Boy Scouts Meet At A Time of Crisis.Boy Scouts Weighs Bankruptcy Due To Sex-Abuse Allegations (#GotBitcoin)
U.S. youth group co-hosts international jamboree while facing bankruptcy.
Tens of thousands of scouts from more than 150 countries marched across a campsite here, chanting in their native languages. Some American boys and girls in red, white and blue neckerchiefs chimed in: “Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, and where we come from!”
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The Boy Scouts of America, which is co-hosting the two-week World Scout Jamboree that ends Friday, has traveled far since its founding in 1910. The honor of hosting this sprawling event comes as the national organization is going through some of the most transformative changes in its history, while confronting decadeslong declining membership numbers, shifting cultural norms and a possible bankruptcy.
This year, the U.S. organization began welcoming girls into its flagship program, known as Scouts BSA, after allowing girls into the Cub Scouts in 2018. That followed allowing gay youths to join in 2013, and later gay leaders, both of which were opposed by some conservative members. In 2017, the Boy Scouts began accepting transgender youth, stoking more controversy.
“So many things that were done years and years ago fit the constituencies that we were trying to serve. And our society has changed,” said Ellie Morrison, the national commissioner, one of the top three officials. “We have now changed, and come more aligned and are better prepared to serve our communities and our nation.”
Now, the national organization is weighing filing for bankruptcy as it faces an expected wave of lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by employees and volunteers dating back decades. It hasn’t decided whether to file for bankruptcy, Ms. Morrison said in an interview.
“I am confident we will come out stronger on the other side of whatever is going to happen,” Ms. Morrison said. Either way, she added, “we will be prepared to be here for America’s youth.”
The Boy Scouts of America along with co-hosts Scouts Canada and Asociación de Scouts de México have planned the 24th World Scout Jamboree for about a decade. Akin to the Olympics in the scouting world, it is held every four years and scouting organizations bid to be hosts.
This year’s meetup was projected to be the largest ever, with an estimated 45,000 scouts and volunteers from around the world gathered to rock climb, zip line, target practice and skateboard. To feed the hungry scouts, there was nearly 20 tons of rice on hand, along with three tons of American cheese and about 190,000 boxes of cereal.
At the international gathering at its Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a former coal-mining site nestled in the rocky terrain of the Appalachian Mountains, scouts attended exhibitions to learn about global issues such as climate change, poverty and gender equality.
The U.S. last hosted the world meetup in 1967, when the Boy Scouts was in its heyday and had about six million members. It currently has 2.2 million members, according to the organization. While about 20,000 girls recently joined Scouts BSA and more than 77,000 girls have joined the Cub Scouts, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ending its long relationship with the organization. The church says it will launch its own youth-leadership program.
The modern Boy Scouts has to compete with videogames and streaming services like Netflix, said spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos. Plus, parents are busier than ever, making it tougher for them to dedicate time to participating in such programs, she said.
In recent years, the Boy Scouts has sharpened efforts to appeal to parents and children. It launched a pilot program offering science, technology, engineering and math classes and also beefed up offerings in activities such as rock climbing, BMX biking and skateboarding at its premier campsites.
Jerry Bru, a 49-year-old scoutmaster from Eden Prairie, Minn., who attended the jamboree, said it is tough for the organization to hold on to young people once they join high school.
“They are being picked off by hockey teams, and football and baseball and basketball and girls,” Mr. Bru said. “It becomes a difficult path for them to continue on sometimes.”
The sex-abuse allegations haven’t helped recruitment and permanently stained the reputation of the Boy Scouts for some parents. Toniann Hernandez, of Staten Island, N.Y., said she won’t let her 9-year-old son join the program. Her son plays baseball instead, she said.
“You hear these stories, and you hear them over and over again,” said Ms. Hernandez, 42. “And you have to protect your kids.”
Many parents with kids in the Boy Scouts said such fears are misguided. Bob Brady, a scoutmaster of an all-girl troop in New Jersey, which includes his two daughters, said he isn’t worried because he knows the precautions the organization takes to protect children.
That includes background checks for volunteers, periodic youth-protection training and a policy adopted in 1987 that requires at least two adult leaders be present when interacting with scouts. For girl troops, one of those leaders must be a woman over the age of 21.
“There’s really no concern that people who have conducted themselves in inappropriate ways in the past are going to be let around the children,” said Mr. Brady of Byram, N.J.
The Boy Scouts of America was one of the last scouting organizations in the world to allow girls. About 250 girls from the U.S. attended the jamboree. Overall, girls made up about 40% of total participants.
Alan Lambert, assistant chief scout executive and national director of outdoor adventures for the Boy Scouts, said minimal changes had to be made to accommodate girls at the event and that girls have adapted well to the scouting life.
“They can participate seamlessly just like they are doing this week,” Mr. Lambert said. “That’s a pretty exciting thing.”
Jamboree attendee Bridget Brady, Mr. Brady’s 14-year-old daughter, said she grew up hearing her father’s tales of scouting adventures as a kid at summer camp.
“I just wanted to be able to experience that same thing,” said Bridget, who is also a member of the Girl Scouts. “Now I can.”
Names Of More Alleged Boy Scouts Abusers Are Disclosed
Lawyers release list after Pennsylvania lawsuit by a man who says he was sexually abused during the 1970s.
Lawyers representing about 800 men who say they were victims of childhood sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America released names of hundreds of previously undisclosed alleged abusers who had ties to the organization.
The attorneys disclosed the list after filing a civil lawsuit late Monday in Pennsylvania state court by a single plaintiff who said he was abused while a member of the Boy Scouts.
The lawsuit alleges that an assistant scoutmaster sexually abused the plaintiff, identified only as S.D., during the 1970s at the assistant scoutmaster’s home in Pennsylvania and at a campsite in the state. The plaintiff accuses the Boy Scouts and the assistant scoutmaster of conspiring to cover up the incident to avoid civil litigation.
Most of the alleged abusers on the disclosed list aren’t included in the Boy Scouts’ ineligible-volunteer files that are public, and the identities of these people may have been previously unknown to the organization, the lawyers said.
The Boy Scouts add individuals to the ineligible-volunteer list based on known or suspected violations of its policies. About 7,800 people are included in those files, according to court testimony from earlier this year by a professor hired by the Boy Scouts.
Tim Kosnoff, an attorney for the victims, said his team shared the list with the Boy Scouts several weeks ago.
“This is an outrage hiding in plain site,” Mr. Kosnoff said.
The Boy Scouts didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” the organization has previously said. “We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice.”
The disclosure of the names comes as the Boy Scouts weighs whether to file for bankruptcy because of an expected surge of lawsuits from people alleging they were sexually abused as children. States like New York and New Jersey recently passed laws creating temporary windows allowing sexual-assault lawsuits against individuals and the institutions they were involved with regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. Other states like California are considering similar changes.
A bankruptcy filing would temporarily halt existing lawsuits and block new ones. Bankruptcy rules give troubled organizations the chance to pool money from their property and set deadlines for victims to come forward.
During chapter 11 proceedings, a federal judge oversees the process that lawyers use to search for more victims, whether through ad campaigns or mailings. Such proceedings could make it easier for some victims to receive compensation and give them more leverage to demand funds.
Mr. Kosnoff’s clients range in age from 14 to 88, with most in their 40s and 50s, he said. They hail from 48 states.
His clients have alleged abuse by more than 350 people who aren’t included in the Boy Scouts’ ineligible-volunteer files, according to the complaint filed Monday. About 65 of the alleged perpetrators were found in the ineligible-volunteer files, according to the list provided by Mr. Kosnoff. The incidents of alleged abuse date as far back as the 1940s.
The alleged victims couldn’t provide enough identifying information for about 100 of the alleged perpetrators to determine if they are in the ineligible-volunteer files. Some of these entries included only partial names or nicknames and details like the alleged incident and the troop number.
Many Boy Scouts Victims Find Little Comfort As Bankruptcy Nears End
Chapter 11 odyssey has left some victims who stepped forward at the Boy Scouts’ request feeling angry and mistrustful of the process.
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.
Closed-door mediation sessions and more than $100 million spent on legal fees haven’t closed the gap between the ask and the offer. The Boy Scouts have made progress in recent days toward a potential agreement with a coalition of law firms that represents the bulk of the victims who have filed claims over childhood abuse, people familiar with the matter said.
But the Boy Scouts are farther apart from a separate official committee of survivors, other people said. A court hearing that was slated for Monday, where a judge was to decide whether to allow victims to vote on the Boy Scouts settlement, was delayed a week, so talks could continue.
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.
In recent weeks, the Boy Scouts said that “considerable progress has been made as we continue to work with survivors, insurers, and other parties in the case toward a global resolution that will equitably compensate survivors and ensure that Scouting’s mission continues.” On Friday, the Boy Scouts didn’t respond to a request to comment on the status of negotiations.
The organization has apologized to those it failed to protect from sexual predators and promised to provide fair compensation for survivors. The bankruptcy filing, made in February of last year, was supposed to ease a settlement, halting a race to lay claim to the organization’s assets and getting compensation to victims faster and more efficiently than they could hope for through litigation.
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.
The organization claims to have put in place some of the strongest safety programs in the country. The Boy Scouts have said they can’t afford to drag out the process for much longer and need to nail down a settlement and emerge from bankruptcy by the end of the summer.
“We’re at the tipping point, your honor,” Ms. Lauria said last week in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., 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.
‘If this does not have a financial resolution for victims, those scars are going to be open wounds for life’
— Doug Kennedy, former Boy Scout
“What happened to us is a scar and that is never going to go away,” said Doug Kennedy, 59, a professor at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach who said he was sexually assaulted as a teenager while on a Boy Scouts camping trip in New York. “And if this does not have a financial resolution for victims, those scars are going to be open wounds for life.”
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.
The current legal exposure also threatens the financial health of the roughly 250 local Boy Scouts councils spread across the country, which hold the bulk of the organization’s wealth but aren’t themselves in bankruptcy.
Doug Parker, who said he was sexually abused as a child in the Boy Scouts in New Jersey, said he is frustrated by the lack of information about abuse that has been disclosed related to the local councils. The bankruptcy process was supposed to help bring closure for people abused in the Boy Scouts, but the lack of progress so far has been insulting, he said.
“It seems like they really don’t care,” said Mr. Parker, 71 years old, who lives in East Windsor, N.J. “They just don’t care, and it’s very upsetting.”
Hundreds of victims have written to the judge, expressing their views and telling their stories. Many details of the abuse remain hidden underneath redactions put in place by the bankruptcy court before the documents were posted publicly.
“Are you kidding me?” asked John Humphrey, 59, a survivor and information technology consultant in Dallas who is chairman of the official bankruptcy committee representing victims. “It’s time people woke up and realized what was going on in those tents, in the car rides home, in the backyards.”
Chris Rodgers, who said he was abused as a child in New Jersey, said the organization’s efforts to shield its assets and those of the local councils gives the appearance it isn’t treating victims with proper respect.
“They need to really make good on getting these claims settled in a fashion that is honorable. And the way they are doing this is not honorable. Lives have been destroyed, mine in particular,” said Mr. Rodgers, 45, who lives in Shoreham, N.Y. “They are basically doing this dance, kind of trampling over those lives that have been kind of lost.”
‘Important Step Forward’: Insurer Agrees To $800 Million Settlement In Boy Scouts Bankruptcy
Attorneys in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case have reached a tentative settlement under which one of the organization’s largest insurers would contribute $800 million into a fund for victims of child sexual abuse.
The agreement announced Monday calls for Century Indemnity Co. and affiliated companies to contribute $800 million into the fund in return for being released from further liability for abuse claims. The payment would bring the amount of money in the proposed trust to more than $2.6 billion, which would be the largest sexual abuse settlement in U.S. history.
The settlement comes as more than 82,000 sexual abuse claimants face a Dec. 28 deadline to vote on a previously announced Boy Scouts reorganization plan.
That plan called for the Boys Scouts and its roughly 250 local councils to contribute up to $820 million in cash and property into a fund for victims. They also would assign certain insurance rights to the fund. In return, the local councils and national organization would be released from further liability for sexual abuse claims.
The plan also includes settlement agreements involving another one of the Boy Scouts’ major insurers, The Hartford, and the BSA’s former largest troop sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church. The Hartford has agreed to pay $787 million into the victims’ fund, and the Mormons have agreed to contribute $250 million. In exchange, both entities would be released from any further liability involving child sex abuse claims.
The Century settlement, which is subject to court approval, provides for additional contributions from the BSA and its local councils on behalf of chartered sponsoring organizations. They include a $40 million commitment from the local councils and additional potential payments of up to $100 million from the BSA and local councils attributable to growth in membership because of chartered organizations’ continued sponsorship of Scouting units.
“This is an extremely important step forward in the BSA’s efforts to equitably compensate survivors, and our hope is that this will lead to further settlement agreements from other parties,” the Boy Scouts said in a prepared statement. “In addition to our continued negotiations with other insurers, the BSA has worked diligently to create a structure that will allow the Roman Catholic-affiliated churches and United Methodist-affiliated churches who sponsored Scouting units to contribute to the proposed settlement trust to compensate survivors.”
The Boy Scouts, based in Irving, Texas, sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020, seeking to halt hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a fund for men who say they were sexually abused as children. Although the organization was facing 275 lawsuits at the time, it’s now facing more than 82,000 sexual abuse claims in the bankruptcy.
Attorneys with an ad hoc group called the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, which represents about 18,000 abuse claimants, said in a news release that the Century settlement is another reason for victims to vote for the BSA’s reorganization plan.
“Not only is the coalition creating the biggest possible compensation fund for survivors — it’s the only fund on the table, and it vanishes with a ‘no’ vote,” said attorney and coalition co-founder Anne Andrews. “The coalition also continues to work with the Boy Scouts of America on accountability and safety measures to ensure that no child will have to endure the horrific harm and abuse our clients have suffered.”
The coalition, which is affiliated with more than two dozen law firms, has played a dominant role in the bankruptcy despite the existence of an official committee charged with representing the best interests of all abuse claimants. It also has been at the center of various disputes over information sharing and how the BSA’s reorganization plan and trust distribution procedures were crafted.
Opponents of the plan include several other law firms, as well as the official abuse claimants committee appointed by the U.S. bankruptcy trustee. The committee has said the plan is “grossly unfair” and represents only a fraction of the settling parties’ potential liabilities and what they should and can pay.
The committee, for example, has said the settlements with local Boy Scout councils would leave them with more than $1 billion in cash and property above what they need to fulfill the scouting mission.
The committee has also noted that sponsoring organizations such as churches and civic groups can avoid liability for abuse claims dating to 1976 simply by transferring their interests in insurance policies purchased by the BSA and local councils to the victims fund, without contributing any cash or property.
News of the Century settlement came the same day that a bankruptcy judge in Indiana approved a $380 million settlement involving USA Gymnastics and more than 500 victims of sexual abuse by former national team doctor Larry Nassar.
The agreement, which also involves the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, is in addition to the $500 million that the University of Michigan agreed to pay in 2018 to settle lawsuits brought by more than 300 victims of Nassar, a former associate professor and sports doctor at the school.
The $880 million in the combined Nassar settlements represents an average of more than $1 million per victim, while the proposed $2.6 billion settlement in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy averages about $31,600 per victim.
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