Faced with hundreds of lawsuits for sexual abuse, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday in hopes of putting together a victim compensation plan that allows the 110-year-old organization to move forward.
The federal bankruptcy court application in Wilmington, Delaware, sets in motion what could be one of the largest and most complex bankruptcies ever filed in the United States. Dozens of lawyers have claimed agreements on behalf of thousands of men who claim to have suffered abuse decades ago when they were child scouts at the hands of older scouts or other leaders, and who have not been able to sue until a recent modification in the statute of limitations of various states .
By going to court, Scouts can cripple those demands for the moment. But ultimately they could be forced to sell part of their numerous properties, including camps and hiking areas, to raise money for a compensation fund that could exceed one billion dollars.RELATED
“The scout programs will continue during this process and for many years to come,” said Evan Roberts, a spokesman for the organization. “Local councils do not declare bankruptcy because they are legally distinct and separate organizations.”
The Boy Scouts are not the only large institution that pays a high price for sexual abuse in the United States. Catholic dioceses across the country, as well as educational centers such as Penn State and Michigan State, have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation in recent years.
Bankruptcy is a painful turnaround for an organization that has been a pillar of American civil activity for generations and training future leaders. For years, reaching the rank of Eagle has been a proud achievement that politicians, business leaders, astronauts and other people put in their official resumes and biographies.
The finances of the Boy Scouts have suffered in recent years due to a decrease in registrations and extrajudicial agreements on sexual abuse lawsuits.
The accounts got worse last year after New York, Arizona, New Jersey and California passed laws making it easier for victims of past abuse to file lawsuits. Teams of attorneys across the country have found hundreds of clients to sue the organization.
“There are many very angry and resentful men who will not allow the Boy Scouts to escape without declaring what all their assets are,” said attorney Paul Mones, who represents numerous clients who sue the entity. “They don’t want to leave stone without lifting.”