Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy following sex abuse lawsuits

The court filing puts a stay on the litigation filed by victims.

February 18, 2020, 6:39 AM

The Boy Scouts of America declared bankruptcy early Tuesday morning, following sex abuse lawsuits filed by thousands of former scouts.

The non-profit’s administrators have been battling lawsuits across the country involving thousands of victims who have come forward with allegations that troop leaders assaulted them. The bankruptcy filing will put a hold on all of those court cases as the BSA works out a strategy to pay its victims.

"The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children," BSA president and CEO Roger Mosby said in a statement Tuesday. "While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process -- with the proposed Trust structure -- will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA's important mission."

The BSA noted in its statement that local councils, which provide programming, financial, facility and administrative support to scouting units in their communities, have not filed for bankruptcy because they are legally separate, distinct and financially independent from the national organization.

Kenneth M. Rothweiler, an attorney part of a group called Abused in Scouting, which represents over 1,800 victims, told ABC News his clients are expressing relief that their cases will be addressed and the organization’s financial holdings will be out in the open. Some of the accusations go back as far as the 1940s, and there had been strong evidence that the non-profit covered up their knowledge of the abuse, according to Rothweiler.

“I think for different people it’s a mixed reaction, but generally it’s some sense of relief that it’s out there and will be out there,” Rothweiler said of the BSA's assets.

PHOTO: A sign for the National Office outside the Boy Scouts of America Headquarters, Feb. 4, 2013, in Irving, Texas.
A sign for the National Office outside the Boy Scouts of America Headquarters, Feb. 4, 2013, in Irving, Texas.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The attorney said that the organization will likely try to downplay its assets and argue that it does not control the money or holdings of local troops. Rothweiler said he and other attorneys are going to push for more details about their financials.

In 2012, more than 14,000 pages of documents related to alleged abuses by 1,247 scout leaders was released as part of a lawsuit filed in Oregon against the BSA. In April, an attorney who represented victims released court documents with testimony from Dr. Janet Warren, who said she was hired by the BSA to evaluate its sex abuse cases.

Warren testified that she worked with the scout’s ineligible volunteer files and determined there were “7,819 perpetrators” and identified “12,254 victims” over the decades.