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Boy Scouts Of America Reaches $850 Million Settlement With Sexual Abuse Survivors

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Boy Scouts of America have agreed to an $850 million settlement with thousands of alleged victims of sexual abuse. The organization filed for Chapter 11 protection in February of 2020 after being overwhelmed by sexual abuse claims - more than 80,000 of them. That's more than 80,000 men who have filed claims. With me now is reporter Andrew Scurria, who covers bankruptcy for The Wall Street Journal. Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW SCURRIA: Good morning.

KING: Tell me about the terms of this settlement.

SCURRIA: This deal says the Boy Scouts will contribute $850 million to compensate the men who stepped forward to file claims over childhood sexual abuse they suffered. That'll come from cash, property, other assets the organization feels it can do without. And in return, the Boy Scouts would settle their liability to abuse survivors, get clear of the threat of more litigation over past sexual abuse, safeguard the balance of the organization's wealth and keep some youth protection measures in place. So it marks a major step forward for the Boy Scouts' efforts to leave Chapter 11 behind. Although it still needs to be approved in court and could face some challenges along the way.

KING: So more than 80,000 men have filed claims. Let's say over the next five years, another 2,000 men come forward. Will the Boy Scouts have to pay them as well, or does this settle everything, including cases or claims that might come forward in the future?

SCURRIA: Well, the bankruptcy court put in place a bar order that said that victims of past abuse had to step forward or forever be barred from seeking compensation. Although there is a way for those with repressed memories who have may not yet recall the abuse they suffered to get compensation in the future, which is a documented phenomenon among sexual abuse victims.

KING: OK. This organization, the Boy Scouts, are 111 years old. When did these abuse claims start coming into the public?

SCURRIA: The Boy Scouts have been dogged by sex abuse claims for years, and they kept internal files on ineligible volunteers who were suspected of abuse going back about a century but only filed for bankruptcy after some big states - New York, California and New Jersey - suspended the statutes of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits, which exposed the Scouts to a growing amount of litigation alleging they failed - mostly decades ago in the '60s, '70s, '80s but also more recently - to properly screen out predators from the volunteer ranks. The Scouts say that things have gotten a lot better since then.

KING: So, Andrew, what happens next for the abuse victims and also for the Boy Scouts?

SCURRIA: Survivors this morning are wondering what this deal means for them. And we know how much the Boy Scouts have agreed to contribute for compensation. But what's not in this deal is any firm commitment from or settlement with the Boy Scouts' insurance companies. These insurers sold liability coverage to the Scouts over the years, and victims' lawyers say that there could be a lot of money in accessing that insurance. But the insurers are not on board with what the Boy Scouts have proposed. So that aspect of the case will still have to play out.

And then if the plan is approved, which the Boy Scouts hope happens in the fall, survivors claims will be evaluated, scrutinized, valued and eventually paid. And that means they will have to make a showing that their claim is legitimate. Can they remember names, dates, places, other details? How severe was the abuse? Do they qualify for insurance? All those things will have to be evaluated before survivors get the financial resolution that they're looking for.

KING: Andrew Scurria, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal who covers bankruptcy, thank you so much for your time.

SCURRIA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.