Many Scout victims find little solace as bankruptcy draws to a close
When the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy last year and called on alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to step forward, about 84,000 did so, with many hoping the legal process would help. to establish a financial regulation and to put an end to their hardships.
But 15 months later, those who have stepped forward are still waiting as the Boy Scouts odyssey through Chapter 11 nears the finish line without a clear resolution to their demands.
Scout lawyer Jessica Lauria told a court hearing last week that the only way to preserve the organization’s mission is to reorganize it rather than liquidate its assets to pay for sexual abuse claims. Breaking up the Boy Scouts would hurt 700,000 active Scouts, she said.
But to turn the page on a legacy of sexual abuse and the resulting legal denunciation, the Boy Scouts must reach consensus with most of the survivors, who have the right to vote on any settlement proposed by the organization.
Closed-door mediation sessions and more than $ 100 million spent on legal fees have not closed the gap between demand and supply. The Boy Scouts have made progress in recent days toward a potential deal with a coalition of law firms that represent the bulk of victims who have filed child abuse complaints, people familiar with the matter said.
But the Boy Scouts are further removed from a separate official committee of survivors, other people said. A court hearing that was scheduled for Monday, in which a judge was to decide whether to allow victims to vote on the Boy Scout settlement, has been delayed for a week, so discussions can continue.
A central dispute concerns the financial cost of decades of child sexual abuse that victims say Boy Scouts have failed to prevent. The organization estimates the damage caused to victims at between $ 2.4 billion and $ 7 billion. The official survivors’ committee assessed the damage at over $ 100 billion.
In recent weeks, the Boy Scouts have said that “tremendous progress has been made as we continue to work with survivors, insurers and others in the case towards a global resolution that will fairly compensate survivors. and ensure the continuation of the mission of Scouting. The Boy Scouts did not respond to a request for comment on the state of negotiations on Friday.
The organization has apologized to those it failed to protect from sexual predators and pledged to provide fair compensation to survivors. The bankruptcy filing, carried out in February last year, was supposed to facilitate a settlement, interrupting a race to claim the organisation’s assets and obtain compensation from victims faster and more efficiently than they could hope for. through litigation.
The plaintiffs clashed with the youth group over its treasure trove of real estate, investments and other assets, seeking ways to find compensation for lives shattered by childhood trauma. The Boy Scouts pushed back, insisting that hundreds of millions of dollars in assets must remain with the organization and are not available to victims.
The organization claims to have some of the strongest security programs in place in the country. The Boy Scouts have said they can’t afford to delay the process much longer and need to reach a settlement and come out of bankruptcy by the end of the summer.
“We’re at the tipping point, Your Honor,” Ms Lauria said last week in United States Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., Where victims have argued to deprive the organization of control on its own. case of chapter 11.
If the victims’ request is granted, they could come up with their preferred terms to end the bankruptcy, the largest ever filed on sexual abuse. The most recent offer on the Boy Scouts table is worth about $ 1.2 billion, plus rights to uncertain collections from insurance policies.
Victims’ representatives rejected the proposal, calling it a “death trap” designed to push them into accepting a poor deal. Initial compensation under this offer averages around $ 14,000 per claim, less than what victims have received from dozens of Catholic dioceses and religious orders bankrupted by allegations of abuse. of the clergy.
The process has left many victims in doubt that the Boy Scouts can make a workable plan – and angry after breaking decades of silence and moving forward at the behest of the organization.
“ If this does not have a financial resolution for the victims, these scars will be open wounds for life ”
“What happened to us is a scar and it will never go away,” said Doug Kennedy, 59, a professor at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, who said he was sexually assaulted as a teenager during a camping trip with the boy scouts. New York. “And if that doesn’t have a financial solution for the victims, those scars will be open wounds for life.”
The organization encouraged survivors to file claims after filing for bankruptcy in February 2020, but did not anticipate that so many men would step forward. A successful exit from bankruptcy would eliminate the threat of future litigation hanging over the Boy Scouts. He is also said to keep secret a treasure house of internal records of known and suspected sexual predators dating back nearly a century.
The current legal exposure also threatens the financial health of some 250 local Scout Councils across the country, which hold most of the organization’s wealth but are not themselves bankrupt.
Doug Parker, who said he was sexually assaulted as a child with the New Jersey Boy Scouts, said he was frustrated at the lack of information about the abuse that was leaked to local councils. The bankruptcy process was supposed to help end Boy Scout abuse, but the lack of progress so far has been insulting, he said.
“It seems they really don’t care,” said Mr. Parker, 71, who lives in East Windsor, New Jersey. “They don’t care and it’s very upsetting.
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Hundreds of victims wrote to the judge, expressing their point of view and telling their story. Many details of the abuse remain hidden under the redactions put in place by the bankruptcy court before the documents were released publicly.
“Are you kidding me?” asked John Humphrey, 59, survivor and information technology consultant in Dallas, chairman of the official bankruptcy committee representing victims. “It’s time for people to wake up and see what’s going on in those tents, in the cars on their way home, in the gardens.”
Chris Rodgers, who said he was abused as a child in New Jersey, said the organization’s efforts to protect its assets and those of local councils give the impression that it does not treat victims with respect appropriate.
“They really have to be successful in settling these claims in an honorable manner. And the way they do it is not honorable. Lives have been destroyed, mine in particular, “said Mr. Rodgers, 45, who lives in Shoreham, New York.” They’re basically doing this dance, kind of stomping on those lives that have been kind of lost. .
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