Boy Scouts reach $850m settlement with US sex abuse victims

Sex abuse scandal widens at Christian-affiliated scouting group as insurance companies balk at scope of settlement.

A statue of a scout stands at the entrance to Boy Scouts of America which has offered 60,000 alleged victims of sex abuse an $850m settlement in a bid to emerge from bankruptcy [Tim Sharp/Reuters]

The Boy Scouts of America reached a USD $850m settlement with groups representing tens of thousands of men with sexual abuse claims, a major step towards addressing a deluge of accusations that sent the 111-year-old United States scouting organization into bankruptcy.

In a filing on Thursday with the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said the settlement with the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice and two other groups would cover claims by about 60,000 abuse survivors.

The BSA said the accord provides a framework for a global resolution of abuse claims that could allow it to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection “late this year”.

Nearly 90,000 sexual abuse claims were filed against the BSA as part of the organisation’s bankruptcy case, far more than had been expected by lawyers representing victims, revealing a shocking scale of sex abuse in the Christian-affiliated scouting organisation. The Boy Scouts had filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2020 in the face of hundreds of lawsuits alleging decades-old sex abuse by Scout leaders.

“Bringing these groups together marks a significant milestone … as the BSA works toward our dual imperatives of equitably compensating survivors of abuse and preserving the mission of scouting,” the nonprofit organisation said in a statement.

The groups separately called the accord a “significant accomplishment that achieves consensus” among most claimants, the Boy Scouts and more than 250 local councils.

Boy Scouts of America troop members attended a Memorial Day weekend commemorative event in Los Angeles, California in 2013. [File: Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters]

Thursday’s settlement requires a judge’s approval and could face opposition from insurers that would be on the hook for payouts.

In a court filing, affiliates of American International Group Inc, Chubb Ltd, Travelers Cos and other insurers said the Boy Scouts excluded them from negotiations and gave victims’ lawyers too much of a say in crafting a settlement.

“With only the fox guarding the hen-house, the outcome is utterly at odds with what BSA itself asserted was necessary for a confirmable (bankruptcy) plan,” the insurance affiliates said.

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware after being hit with hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits. Those lawsuits were filed after several US states, including New York, began letting people sue for alleged sex abuses that occurred decades earlier.

For years, the BSA had kept secret records of scout leaders expelled for sexually abusing boys. The bankruptcy filing covered the national organization, not the local councils.

The BSA executive committee voted in 2015 to allow gay adults to serve as leaders.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies