Managing Partner, Anne Andrews, of Andrews & Thornton is a founding member of the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice representing 73,000 survivors of sexual assault in the Boy Scouts of America Bankruptcy. Ms. Andrews served as the only female principal negotiator in this bankruptcy. It was just announced that the settlement of $2.7 billion has garnered support from all survivor constituencies in the case, and through Ms. Andrews’ heroic efforts Andrews & Thornton has been appointed a seat on the Survivor’s Trust Advisory committee.
In addition to the monetary compensation the plan of reorganization provides wide sweeping changes to the organization’s youth protection measures for future scouts.
Boy Scouts Win Over Key Abuse-Survivors Group on Bankruptcy Plan
Lawyers of the official committee, representing 82,200 individual claimants, will now recommend they accept the youth group’s offer
The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy two years ago amid a growing wave of litigation over child sex abuse.
By Becky Yerak and Andrew Scurria
Updated Feb. 10, 2022 11:47 am ET
The Boy Scouts of America won backing for a landmark sex-abuse compensation plan from the official committee representing 82,200 individual claimants, further solidifying support for ending the largest bankruptcy case ever filed over childhood abuse.
The proposed deal with the survivors’ committee, among the harshest critics of the Boy Scouts since it filed for chapter 11 two years ago, comes as the youth organization nears a trial scheduled for later this month on a bankruptcy-exit plan that includes roughly $2.7 billion for abuse victims.
Under the official committee’s deal, the Boy Scouts agreed to allow additional oversight by survivors of a compensation trust funded by the youth group’s own assets, its local councils, its major insurers and troop sponsors like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
With the official committee now supporting the Boy Scouts’ exit from chapter 11, that leaves the U.S. government’s bankruptcy monitor, some other insurers, a group of Roman Catholic institutions and a minority of abuse survivors among those still objecting to the proposed reorganization.
“Moving forward, the goal of our financial restructuring remains the same: We are steadfast in our commitment to equitably compensate survivors and preserve the mission of Scouting,” a spokesman for the youth group said Thursday.
The Boy Scouts have been trying to garner more votes for the bankruptcy plan, aiming for 75% of support among voting abuse survivors. In a vote tally last month, 73.6% of abuse victims backed the youth group’s settlement terms, shy of the target acceptance rate it believes will ease court approval. Anything less makes the chapter 11 plan more vulnerable to legal challenges from those that disagree with the proposed terms, the youth group has said.
The official committee is charged with advocating for the interests of all abuse survivors but can’t change votes on its own. For months, it urged abuse survivors to vote no, while a separate coalition of law firms led negotiations with the Boy Scouts and touted the settlement plan as a fair outcome.
Committee lawyers will now recommend that abuse victims accept the Boy Scouts’ offer, heightening the likelihood that it will cross the target threshold.
But even with rising support from the victims, the bankruptcy plan faces stiff legal challenges. It hinges on grants of legal immunity from further abuse litigation for all contributing parties, including the Boy Scouts’ affiliated local councils as well as insurers and religious groups that may share liability for past abuse.
Liability releases that extinguish victims’ claims against third parties are controversial in bankruptcy. Federal judges have shown a growing skepticism about such nonconsensual releases, rejecting their use in two major corporate restructurings since December.
Exiting bankruptcy would slow the professional fees that have put intense financial pressure on the Boy Scouts, which has been dogged for years by allegations of widespread childhood abuse. The youth group has apologized for past failures to protect children and said bankruptcy is the fairest way to resolve its liabilities and compensate survivors.
The Boy Scouts said Thursday they had also developed initiatives with input from the survivors’ committee to strengthen existing youth protection procedures designed to safeguard children from predators.
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The revised plan includes changes to the compensation trust for abuse survivors, including a new option for an independent claim review. Survivors of particularly grievous abuse are being given a path to collect additional compensation in recognition of their trauma, court records show.
The youth group filed for bankruptcy amid a growing wave of litigation from survivors in California, New York and other states that suspended statutes of limitations over past sexual abuse. Anne Andrews, a lawyer for the law-firm coalition that led negotiations with the Boy Scouts, said Thursday the victims’ trust expects to fight for more funding after the bankruptcy ends from insurance carriers that haven’t settled their obligations under coverage sold to the youth group, its councils or its sponsors.
“People saw that the combined team of lawyers will be fighting, boots on the ground, for future assets,” she said in an interview.
Besides survivors, the plan must also win the approval of Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., who is scheduled to hold a trial on it later this month. The Boy Scouts have said that claims will be paid in full, though some victims’ lawyers dispute that.
Negotiations over the bankruptcy plan divided survivors, who stand to collect different sums depending on the severity of their trauma, whether the perpetrator was a repeat offender or known to the Boy Scouts, and the state in which the abuse occurred. The men who filed claims against the Boy Scouts were subject to intense lobbying by deal supporters and detractors through virtual meetings, social media, phone calls and letters.
Victims from states that have suspended statutes of limitations on sexual abuse will recover much more under the plan than those in states that haven’t. But there was a broad recognition that victims would be worse off if the youth group can’t reorganize successfully, Ms. Andrews said.
“Within the survivor organizations, there are people who aren’t in the same place mentally and emotionally,” Ms. Andrews said. “These men want closure and want a distribution of value in their lifetimes.”