By Anne Andrews and Ryan McIntosh
The Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”) is a historic youth program rooted in strengthening young men. It was founded in 1910 and has since introduced approximately 110 million Americans to scouting. President Woodrow Wilson endorsed a Congressional Charter for the Boy Scouts in 1916, the first youth organization to receive a Congressional Charter.
Boy Scouts accumulated files that contained sexual abuse complaints from parents, counselors, pastors, leaders, and families. BSA began compiling reports of volunteers that were ineligible to serve due to claims of abuse as far back as 1920. The Perversion Files had been sealed in BSA national headquarters, gathering dust, and hidden from the public until 2010, when an Oregon judge made a ruling to make such records public. The Perversion Files demonstrated that BSA had been receiving complaints about repeat offenders for years and BSA did little to nothing to protect children. In fact, some correspondence suggests that the boys were blamed for their participation in the abuse. Reading the Perversion Files is heartbreaking and tragic, it shows the need for youth safety measures that became a central pillar of the Plan of Reorganization (“Plan”).
As a result of thousands of complaints in the Perversion Files, the Boy Scouts faced mounting liability stemming from decades of mismanagement of child sexual abuse, and in the face of dozens of states opening up windows for previously expired statutes of limitation, Boy Scouts filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2020. Over eighty thousand individual sexual abuse survivors filed claims in the bankruptcy. The claims span over one hundred years of BSA sexual abuse committed by various volunteers and agents within BSA. The Perversion Files illustrate that BSA did little to thoroughly rout serial abusers from the program or warn parents or their children. For decades, Boy Scouts had woefully inadequate protections for its scouts; taking until 1988 to establish a common sense no-alone contact rule between adults and children.
In 2020, myself, our team at Andrews & Thornton and others founded the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, an ad-hoc committee. The Coalition was formed in an effort to achieve equitable compensation for all survivors, to put protections in place to prevent future Scouts from being sexually abused and to ensure the survival of the Boy Scouts mission. These goals were not well understood at the beginning of the case. I personally interviewed hundreds of men and learned that they wanted Boy Scouts to survive so long as there were protections in place to prevent future Scouts from being sexually abused. These were fundamental goals most survivors supported. By contrast, other constituents in the case wanted to send home time-barred claims empty handed or burn down the Boy Scouts. Financial advisors examined the assets of BSA and the local councils which had restricted deeds on their real estate. The Coalition came to the opinion that burning down BSA would have led to fewer funds available to survivors and may have taken over ten years to litigate deed restrictions.
The Coalition led the charge in negotiations with BSA National, the Local Councils, and various insurers. I spearheaded two years of intense mediation which led to a Plan that received overwhelming support from abuse survivors. The negotiated Plan was supported by over 85% of sexual abuse survivors. The Plan provides for $2.4 billion in compensation from BSA, the Local Councils, and various settling insurers including Hartford, Chubb, Zurich and Clarendon. The negotiations that led to the Plan occurred virtually. Once pandemic travel restrictions were lifted, I personally traveled across the country over 20 times to negotiate on behalf of my clients and lead the Coalition to a successful Plan. I consider this case one of the greatest accomplishments of my career.
In addition to the compensation, many new practices and policies were put in place to prevent future Scouts from being sexually abused.
The $2.4 billion in compensation for BSA survivors is the largest compensation fund for sexual abuse survivors in the history of the United States. In recent years, there have been several significant sexual abuse settlements involving various entities plagued by child sexual abuse. In 2007, The Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled more than five hundred clergy sexual abuse claims for $660 million; the sexual abuse was carried out by more than 220 priests, teachers, and other Archdiocese of Los Angeles staff. USA Gymnastics settled more than 500 sexual abuse claims against former team doctor Larry Nassar for $380 million. The University of Southern California settled 700 sexual abuse cases involving an on-campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, for $852 million. The sheer magnitude of the compensation amount in the BSA settlement sends a warning to other large organizations across the country regarding sexual abuse. In addition to the record-breaking compensation, there are many new practices and policies put in place to prevent future Scouts from being sexually abused. For example, the Boy Scouts are implementing a Volunteer Screening Database which will be a hub of all volunteers’ profiles, criminal background checks, and any complaints made against a volunteer. Its purpose is to flag and prevent individuals who should not work with youth from registering for scouting. The Boy Scouts have also enacted a new policy that requires everyone in the organization to report any known or suspected sexual abuse to law enforcement. Their new policy also removes individuals from the organization based on any allegations of abuse. BSA must hire a Youth Protection Executive within six months. The Plan has also established a Youth Protection Committee which will be comprised of six BSA representatives, including the chief executive officer, and sexual abuse survivors. The Youth Protection Committee will review the Boy Scouts’ policies and procedures for youth protection measures and provide valuable insight and feedback to their policies. Additionally, the Scouts are required to consult with an independent third party to review its youth protection measures and any changes made to existing policies to ensure they are following the industry standards for youth protection.
As an update, on April 19, 2023, BSA filed a notice with the bankruptcy court announcing that the Plan went effective. This was a monumental step towards obtaining compensation for the thousands of BSA survivors who courageously came forward regarding their sexual abuse during their time in scouting.
The Trust compensating survivors will be administered by Retired Judge Barbara Houser, a former United States Bankruptcy Judge in the Northern District of Texas. On January 20, 2000, Judge Houser was sworn in as the first female bankruptcy judge in the Northern District of Texas. Judge Houser led the mediation team comprised of five federal judges for the debt restructuring of Puerto Rico. Judge Houser and her team worked for four-and-a-half years to restructure Puerto Rico’s $120 billion dollar debt. During her twenty years on the bench, she received a variety of awards and honors. In 2011, she was presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the American College of Bankruptcy. Judge Houser has also received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service from Southern Methodist University, the Judge William Norton Jr. Judicial Excellence Award from the American Bankruptcy Institute, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Bankruptcy Inn Alliance. Judge Houser expressed that she intends to work expeditiously and bring closure to survivors who have internalized their trauma for decades.
The Trust and Survivor’s Trust Advisory Committee (“STAC”) are hard at work preparing the questionnaire that will be used to submit claims to the Trust. Sean Higgins, Partner at Andrews & Thornton, serves as a board member on the STAC and will play an integral role in advising the Trust. Critically, the STAC will play a significant role in future settlements with insurers and chartering organizations.
I had a vision when I founded the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice that the Plan would provide equitable compensation for all survivors, set in place industry-leading youth protection measures to prevent future Scouts from being sexually abused and save the historic organization from collapse.
My efforts in zealously representing my clients has greatly benefited the 82,000 BSA survivors that came forward. I am overjoyed that survivors will be compensated for the wrongs they endured.
Judge Houser has worked tirelessly to implement the Plan and is deep in the process of gathering claims and planning the future for payment as quickly as possible. It was an honor to lead Boy Scouts, one of America’s most historic institutions, to emerge from bankruptcy knowing there are protections in place to prevent future Scouts from being abused and providing a substantial sum of money to claimants.
 In 2015, Boy Scouts changed their policies to permit members of the LGBTQ community to hold positions of leadership within its institution. In 2017, Boy Scouts expanded their membership to permit girls in Scouting making their organization inclusive.
 Boy Scouts of America National oversees the Local Council. Boy Scouts of America National maintains the high-adventure bases and organizes the national Scout Jamborees every four years. There are approximately 250 Local Councils in the scouting program across the United States. Local Councils are local entities that facilitate the scouting program and oversee the local Cub Scout Packs and other scouting units.
© Consumer Attorneys Of California
FORUM July/August 2023
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