The Boy Scouts of America reached an $850 million settlement with tens of thousands of former Scouts who claim they were sexually abused while in the organization, a major step toward resolving a bevy of lawsuits that led to the organization’s bankruptcy last year.
Ken Rothweiler, an attorney who represents 16,800 men, said he was pleased with the settlement and noted it may be just the first phase of a legal effort that could ultimately lead to billions of dollars in additional settlements or judgments.
“This initial settlement of $850 million … is the largest settlement of child sexual abuse claims in United States history,” Rothweiler said in a statement. “We will now negotiate with the insurers and sponsoring and chartering organizations who have billions of dollars in legal exposure, of which a substantial portion is necessary to fairly compensate the survivors.”
The settlement includes up to $250 million for a trust to compensate survivors of sexual abuse from the BSA national organization, $500 million to the trust from local council groups of the BSA and an additional $100 million for a separate trust coming from the group’s pension fund. The money will come from the organization’s cash reserves and the sale of art and property, among other sources.
The deal must still be approved by the courts. Reuters noted the settlement has the support of about 60,000 abuse survivors.
The Boy Scouts said there was still “much to be done” but that the agreement was an “encouraging” move toward “equitably compensating survivors of abuse and preserving the mission of Scouting.”
“This significant step toward a global resolution benefits the entire Scouting community, as this agreement will help local councils make their contributions to the Trust without additional drain on their assets, and will allow them to move forward with the national organization toward emergence from bankruptcy,” the group said in a statement.
The Boy Scouts organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year amid rampant allegations of abuse, saying it was doing so to “provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining BSA’s important mission.” Changes to laws in several states have allowed victims of sexual assault additional time to file suit, suspending statutes of limitations.
The Wall Street Journal added that the Boy Scouts hope to end their bankruptcy arrangement by the fall, which is usually the peak of the group’s recruiting season.
The group has publicly apologized amid a surge in claims of abuse that spanned decades. Last year it asked victims to come forward so it could understand the full scope of the crimes. About 88,000 men have lodged such allegations.
“This agreement ensures that we have the overwhelming support of survivors for the BSA’s proposed Plan of Reorganization, which is a key step in the BSA’s path toward emerging from bankruptcy,” the group said Thursday.
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