The Boy Scouts of America announced an $850 million settlement agreement that would resolve tens of thousands of childhood sexual abuse claims in an agreement instantly described by observers as “historic” and the largest of its kind in U.S. history.
“After months of intensive negotiations, the debtors have reached resolution with every single official and major creditor constituency in these chapter 11 cases,” the group’s lawyer Paige N. Topper announced in a 30-page motion on Thursday.
The motion states that the proposed deal enjoys “significant plaintiff support of representatives for approximately 60,000 abuse survivors, and provides a framework for the global resolution of abuse claims, including third-party releases for the local councils and others that are essential to the debtors’ ability to continue to carry out the scouting mission.”
In a footnote, the group estimates that roughly 82,500 unique abuse proofs of claim were filed as of the Nov. 16, 2020 deadline.
In an unsigned statement, the Boy Scouts of America reported “substantial progress” in their efforts to reach a “global resolution” with a “large majority” of childhood sexual abuse claimants in their bankruptcy litigation.
“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’s statement reads. “Bringing these groups together marks a significant milestone and is the biggest step forward to date as the BSA works toward our dual imperatives of equitably compensating survivors of abuse and preserving the mission of Scouting.”
Boy Scouts of America’s national organization agreed to contribute up to $250 million to a trust for survivors. Local councils have been asked to contribute $500 million in cash and properties to that trust. The final $100 million would come from a separate trust tied to the local councils.
“There is still much to be done to obtain approval from the court to solicit survivors to vote for the BSA’s amended plan of reorganization,” the group’s statement continues. “However, with this encouraging and significant step forward, the BSA is wholeheartedly committed to working toward a global resolution. Our intention is to seek confirmation of the plan this summer and emerge from bankruptcy late this year.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel hailed the “historic” deal as an “acknowledgement from the Boy Scouts of America of the pain inflicted on thousands of scouts across the country.”
“While this may bring resolution for those involved in the civil litigation, our criminal work is just beginning in Michigan,” Nessel added in a statement. “We must ensure abusers never again have an opportunity to prey on others, and the best way to achieve that is through a criminal investigation.”
Nessel encouraged Michaganders with relevant information to contact the Department of Attorney General’s Boy Scouts of America investigation hotline.
“It is our job to secure additional justice for survivors, which in turn will better protect society from criminals who hide behind their positions of authority to abuse others,” she added. “It doesn’t matter if it occurred last month or years ago—you deserve to be heard and we’re here to listen.”
Read the BSA’s motion announcing the settlement:
[image via Tom PenningtonAFP via Getty Images]
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