Boy Scouts bankruptcy plans anger some, welcomed by others.
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 3, 2021
By DAVID CRARY and RANDALL CHASE
NEW YORK (AP) — An $850 million agreement by the Boy Scouts of America to compensate sex-abuse victims prompted outrage Friday from some survivors and their advocates, while others were encouraged and saw it as the best outcome that could be achieved under the circumstances.
The agreement, filed in court late Thursday as a step toward resolving a complex bankruptcy case, includes the BSA national leadership, abuse victims, local Boy Scout councils and lawyers appointed to represent victims who might file future claims.
Lawyer Tim Kosnoff, whose Abused in Scouting legal team says it’s representing thousands of clients, called it “a lousy deal — a sellout of tens of thousands of brave men” because it did not press local councils to contribute the bulk of their unrestricted assets.
Chris Anderson, an accountant from southern California who says he was abused by a Boy Scout troop leader for more than three years in the 1970s, complained about a lack of detail regarding council finances.
“It’s a farce,” he told The Associated Press. “There’s no certainty for the victims at all.”
However, some lawyers representing survivors welcomed the agreement as the best that could be gotten. They noted that negotiations remain to be resolved with the Boy Scouts’ insurers, who potentially could be required to contribute billions of dollars to the compensation fund.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said lawyer Ken Rothweiler, whose firm says it’s representing more than 16,000 survivors. “Now we go after the next step and see what happens with the insurers.”
The BSA sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020, moving to halt thousands of lawsuits by men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders. The filing was intended to try to reach a global resolution of abuse claims and create a compensation fund.
Richard Mason, an attorney and chairman of an ad hoc committee representing local councils in the case, said this week’s restructuring agreement is the result of hard-fought negotiations and plaintiffs’ attorneys “pushed very hard.”
Mason, who is also president of the Greater New York Councils of the BSA, said the councils are contributing “the most that is achievable.”
Irwin Zalkin, whose law firm represents about 150 survivors, warned against reading too much into the agreement, given that many questions remain unanswered.
Those include what percentage of their worth local councils will contribute; what, if anything, local sponsoring organizations such as churches and civic groups might contribute; and how much will be set aside to cover future claims.
“I think it’s a disservice to the victims to put out a media release saying they’ve reached an agreement for $850 million, especially the way they’re taking a victory dance about it,” he said. “To me, I find it just reprehensible.”
Lawyer Paul Mones, who represents hundreds of abuse victims and supports the restructuring agreement, said plaintiffs’ attorneys pushed the BSA and local councils as far as they could.
“We believe this is the best that could have been done,” he said, while acknowledging that abuse survivors could still vote to reject the agreement.
Zalkin and other critics note that the councils have more than $1.8 billion in unrestricted assets but are contributing only $600 million to the victims’ fund. Mones pointed out, however, that many council properties have land-use or donor restrictions making them unavailable to compensate abuse victims.
Regardless of how much the BSA and the local councils contribute or how much insurance companies might be forced to pay, no amount can compensate the abuse victims for their suffering, Mones said.
“This is not a victory for anybody,” he said. “We are dealing in the aftermath of a disaster in these peoples’ lives, and we are trying to build things back with whatever raw materials we have left.”
The Associated Press contacted numerous local scout councils across the U.S. on Friday. Most of the leaders who responded said they did not yet know the amount they’d be asked to contribute and were hopeful they would not have to sell off cherished properties, such as camps.
Doug Stone of the Indian Waters Council in South Carolina said it would not have to sell its camp or any other assets.
“We own Camp Barstow outright,” he said. “We’re not going to put a mortgage on it. We’re not going to sell it. It’s going to stay.”
However, the BSA’s president and CEO, Roger Mosby, told the AP earlier this week that some councils would face “a difficult and often emotional decision” regarding camp sales.
Some councils have already taken steps in that direction.
The Greater Hudson Valley Council, which serves several counties near New York City, placed three of its camps up for sale earlier this year as part of its obligation to the fund. The largest is the Durland Scout Reservation, a 1,385-acre property in Putnam Valley that includes two lakes.
Another is Camp Bullowa in Stony Point, where a local official has inquired as to whether the town could purchase it and maintain it for scouting and other recreation.
In Maine, the Pine Tree Council has proposed selling two camps to raise money for the fund, according to the Kennebec Journal. The council did not immediately reply to emails and phone messages Friday seeking an update.
The BSA, in a statement Friday, praised the agreement and said it would help local councils contribute “without additional drain on their assets.”
“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,” it said. “Our intention is to seek confirmation of the Plan this summer and emerge from bankruptcy late this year.”
Membership in the BSA has declined sharply since 2019, from more than 1.9 million scouts in its two flagship programs to less than 770,000.