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The tentative settlement between the Boy Scouts of America and its sexual abuse survivors is one of the largest in U.S. history. But the national organization had filed for bankruptcy in the winter of 2020. So just how much will survivors receive and is the settlement adequate? John Yang reports with attorney Kenneth Rothweiler, who represents about 16,000 claimants and negotiated the settlement.
The tentative legal settlement between the Boy Scouts of America and tens of thousands of sexual abuse survivors is one of the largest in U.S. history.
The National Organization of Boy Scouts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the winter of 2020.
And, as John Yang tells us, there are now concerns about how much survivors will receive.
Judy, the proposal is a first step in settling the more than 80,000 claims against the Boy Scouts for decades of sexual abuse.
And lawyers who negotiated the deal on behalf of survivors of the abuse say there could be a lot more money to come. In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America called it a significant step toward a global resolution of those claims. The deal must still be approved by the bankruptcy judge. And other attorneys representing survivors said they will object to it as too small.
Attorney Kenneth Rothweiler represents about 16,000 claimants and negotiated the settlement.
Mr. Rothweiler, thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me.
Have you talked to any of the survivors that you have been — you represent? And what is their reaction to what they're hearing about this?
Yes, I talk to survivors every day. And I always get their opinion as to how they're feeling and how they perceive the whole bankruptcy going.
I wouldn't say they're overjoyed, but they feel satisfied because the Boy Scouts have acknowledged what they have done. And now they have come to the table, and compensation is coming to the survivors.
When we hear numbers like this and settlements like this, I mean, this is big, but how much of that money, after fees, after other expenses, how much of that money is going to actually end up in survivors' pockets? Is there any way of estimating that at this stage?
It is hard to estimate it at this time, John, because we're not finished yet.
This settlement with the BSA and the locals is just the first step. And that has always been the plan, to get the settlement with those two entities, and then to get the insurance rights, which have now assigned to the trust, so that we can go after the insurance companies.
And that's where, actually, most of the money is. So, I predict that, in the end, this is going to be a multibillion-dollar settlement.
And will all the claimants get the same amount or will — different amounts to different claims?
Different amounts to different claimants, depending upon what state they're in, the severity of the abuse, the longevity of the abuse.
There's a lot of factors that go into it. It's called a TDP, so trust distribution protocol, which is basically guidelines for the trustee to assess how much each individual claimant will get.
When the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy, there was a lot of controversy because the local councils weren't involved. And a lot of people were saying that's where a significant amount of the assets were being held.
So where is the money for this settlement, where's the money coming from?
Well, it's a total of $850 million; $250 million is from the national organization, the National Boy Scouts of America; $600 million is from the local councils. And there's about 250 local councils. And that's broken down into cash and property and a promissory note.
So, we tried to extract as much money as we could for survivors, both from the BSA National and from the 250 local councils.
And will this limit the liability of the councils after this — after this settlement?
Yes, they will be getting what's called a channeling injunction, which means that their potential exposure has ended.
So — and there's more than just money in this settlement. What do you think are some of the more significant other provisions?
Well, on behalf of the survivors, I can tell you that it's never been about the money. It's been about the recognition from the Boy Scouts that this abuse went on for decades.
And the survivors feel good about the fact that the Boy Scouts have acknowledged that. And now we move on from there.
And there are — as I noted in the introduction, there are some attorneys who are not thrilled about this, who say it's too small, who say that you can't really judge how equitable it is until you know how much the local councils really have.
What's your response?
Well, my response to that is, those lawyers don't know what the plan was from the beginning.
The plan always was to get a settlement with the BSA National and then the locals and then move on to the insurers. And as I told you, John, in the beginning, there's billions of potential dollars that could come from the insurance companies, also from chartering organizations, like the LDS Church, and — I mean, from sponsoring organizations like the LDS Church, and also from chartering organizations.
So, there's a lot of potential money that can come the way of the survivors. We now have to be aggressive, as the lawyers, to go after it.
Will the survivors have a say in accepting this plan and whether to — I mean, the bankruptcy — it's ultimately up to the bankruptcy judge. But will the survivors have a say in this?
They will. I mean, they will ultimately vote on the plan. So they will — their votes will be counted.
And a certain percentage of the survivors have to vote in favor of it for the plan to go through. So, yes, they will have a vote.
And you say that this is just the beginning. There are others to go after.
How long do you think this process is ultimately going to take?
It depends how much the insurers fight us, John, quite frankly.
If they come to the table and will talk to us, we could get this done by the end of the year. If they don't do that, then we will have to litigate against them. And we have got a lot of good lawyers involved in this bankruptcy that are ready to litigate against the major insurance companies.
So, we will have to wait and see. Probably a better question after a couple months.
Kenneth Rothweiler, who's representing claims of sexual abuse against the Boy Scouts of America, thank you very much.
Thanks, John. Appreciate it.
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John Yang is a correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. He covered the first year of the Trump administration and is currently reporting on major national issues from Washington, DC, and across the country.
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