Boy Scouts’ bankruptcy plans angry some, welcomed by others
NEW YORK – An $ 850 million Boy Scouts of America deal to compensate victims of sexual abuse sparked outrage from some survivors and their advocates on Friday, while others were encouraged and seen as the best result that could be obtained under the circumstances.
The deal, filed in court Thursday night as a step towards resolving a complex bankruptcy case, includes BSA national leadership, victims of abuse, local Boy Scout councils and lawyers appointed to represent victims who could file future claims.
Lawyer Tim Kosnoff, whose Abused in Scouting legal team claims to represent thousands of clients, called it a “bad deal – a clearance sale of tens of thousands of brave men” because he did not push the advice locals to contribute the bulk of their unrestricted assets.
Chris Anderson, an accountant in Southern California who says he was abused by a Boy Scout leader for more than three years in the 1970s, complained about the lack of details about the council’s finances.
“It’s a joke,” he told The Associated Press. “There is no certainty for the victims.”
However, some lawyers representing the survivors hailed the deal as the best that could be achieved. They noted that negotiations remain to be resolved with insurers of the Boy Scouts, who could be called upon to pay billions of dollars into the compensation fund.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said lawyer Ken Rothweiler, whose firm claims to represent more than 16,000 survivors. “Now we take the next step and see what is happening with the insurers. “
The BSA filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2020, ending thousands of lawsuits filed by men who were abused as children by Boy Scout leaders or other leaders. The purpose of the filing was to try to achieve a comprehensive resolution of abuse complaints and to create a compensation fund.
Richard Mason, a lawyer and chairman of an ad hoc committee representing local councils in the case, said this week’s restructuring deal is the result of fierce negotiations and that plaintiffs’ lawyers have “pushed very hard” .
Mason, who is also chairman of the Greater New York boards of the BSA, said the boards contribute “as much as possible.”
Irwin Zalkin, whose law firm represents around 150 survivors, cautioned against overreading the agreement, as many questions remain unanswered.
These include what percentage of their value local councils will contribute; what, if any, local sponsoring organizations such as churches and civic groups could contribute; and how much will be set aside to cover future claims.
“I think it’s doing the victims a disservice to issue a press release saying they made a deal for $ 850 million, especially the way they take a victory dance about it,” he said. he declared. “To me, I find that just reprehensible.”
Lawyer Paul Mones, who represents hundreds of victims of abuse and supports the restructuring deal, said lawyers for the plaintiffs have pushed the BSA and local councils as far as they can.
“We believe this is the best that could have been done,” he said, while acknowledging that survivors of abuse could still vote to reject the deal.
Zalkin and other critics note that the councils have more than $ 1.8 billion in unearmarked assets but contribute only $ 600 million to the victims fund. Mones pointed out, however, that many council properties have land use or donor restrictions, making them unavailable to compensate victims of abuse.
Regardless of how much BSA and local councils contribute or how much insurance companies might be forced to pay, no amount can compensate victims of abuse for their suffering, Mones said.
“It’s not a victory for anyone,” he said. “We are dealing with the consequences of a disaster in the lives of these people and we are trying to rebuild things with the raw materials we have left. “
The Associated Press contacted numerous local Boy Scout councils across the United States on Friday. Most of the executives who responded said they did not yet know how much they would be asked to contribute and hoped that they would not have to sell expensive properties, such as camps.
Doug Stone of the Indian Waters Council in South Carolina said he would not have to sell his camp or any other assets.
“We own Camp Barstow in its own right,” he said. “We’re not going to put a mortgage on it. We are not going to sell it. It will stay.
However, BSA President and CEO Roger Mosby told the AP earlier this week that some boards would be faced with “a difficult and often emotional decision” regarding camp sales.
Some councils have already taken steps in this direction.
The Greater Hudson Valley Council, which serves several counties near New York City, put three of its camps up for sale earlier this year as part of its obligation to the fund. The largest is the Durland Scout Preserve, a 1,385 acre property in the Putnam Valley that includes two lakes.
Another is Camp Bullowa at Stony Point, where a local official asked if the city could buy and maintain it for scouting and other recreation.
In Maine, the Pine Tree Council has offered to sell two camps to raise money for the fund, according to the Kennebec Journal. The council did not immediately respond to emails and phone messages on Friday asking for an update.
The BSA, in a statement Friday, praised the deal and said it would help local councils contribute “without further strain on their assets.”
“There is still a long way to go to get court approval to get survivors to vote for the modified BSA reorganization plan,” he said. “Our intention is to seek confirmation of the plan this summer and come out of bankruptcy at the end of this year.”
BSA’s membership has fallen sharply since 2019, from over 1.9 million Scouts in its two flagship programs to less than 770,000.