Faced with mounting legal and compensation costs related to its handling of sexual abuse allegations, the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy protection.
In a statement released on Monday, the organization said it had filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to achieve two key objectives: "equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting" through the creation of a Victims Compensation Trust "and continue carrying out its mission." The organization will continue to operate its programs during the bankruptcy process, while local councils, which provide programming, financial, and administrative support to units in their communities, will not be affected by the national organization's decision.
"The fact is that predators harmed innocent children in Scouting programs, and for this I am deeply sorry," BSA national chair Jim Turley wrote in an open letter. "The BSA cannot undo what happened to you, but we are committed to supporting you and to doing everything in our power to prevent it from happening to others. It is a social and moral responsibility that I and the entire organization take extremely seriously. We believe that all victims should receive our support and compensation — and we have taken decisive action to make that possible."
The bankruptcy filing is expected to disrupt ongoing litigation and result in a deadline for former scouts to pursue claims, the New York Times reports. Since at least 1935, BSA has maintained internal files detailing the names of thousands of men who had been dismissed as group leaders for alleged misdeeds, including abuse allegations, as well as thousands of their victims. According to the Times, former scouts have come forward to identify hundreds of other abusers not included in those files.
"If you've ever considered coming forward, now is the time," said Tim Kosnoff, a lawyer who is part of a team of attorneys who created the Abused in Scouting victims' group. Kosnoff told the Times he found it "difficult to impossible" to envision a restructuring at BSA that would give him confidence that it has sufficiently changed, and the organization may need to liquidate and allow a new organization with better controls to take its place.
Paul Mones, a lawyer in a 2010 case in Oregon in which BSA was held liable for $18.5 million in punitive damages — a case whose records the organization fought to keep secret until a 2012 Oregon Supreme Court ruling made them public — said the bankruptcy filing would deny other victims an opportunity to hold the Scouts accountable in court. "The justice that they so well deserved," said Mones, "will unfortunately escape them in the end and that is a true tragedy."
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