The Boy Scouts of America has reached an $850 million settlement with about 60,000 people in sexual abuse lawsuits.
Lawyers say it would be the largest sexual abuse settlement in American history, far outstripping similar lawsuits against the country’s Catholic Church.
The Boy Scouts of America had apologized to the victims and filed for bankruptcy last year, saying it would allocate a compensation fund for victims of sexual abuse.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Times revealed about 5,000 files, including accusations against scouting teachers and team leaders who were deemed “unqualified volunteers”.
Most of these incidents were not reported to the police.
In a statement, the 111-year-old organization said the settlement was part of an “ongoing effort to find a comprehensive solution that fairly compensates survivors and secures the future of Scouting.”
The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge, but it could face opposition from insurers who will have to pay millions of dollars.
Local councils affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, under another settlement expected to be submitted Friday, are expected to contribute $600 million to the settlement fund, according to the Associated Press.
Ken Rothweiler, one of the three main negotiators for the victims, told National Public Radio, a local broadcaster, that he was glad that the Boy Scouts of America and its local councils had “taken appropriate action to be the first to compensate the survivors.”
But another lawyer for the group, Tim Cusnov, told the same radio that the settlement was a “stupid, rotten deal. I don’t know how you can describe it as a failure.”
He said that some of the men who have been abused for years may receive compensation of no more than a few thousand dollars, describing it as “an insult to all the men who found the courage to file cases and participated in this process.”
A number of insurers – which will be responsible for paying the compensation money – have accused the Boy Scouts of America of having excluded them from the negotiations, saying they gave the victims’ lawyers exaggerated influence in deciding the final settlement.
The insurers said, in a statement: “The result is completely contrary to what the Boy Scouts of America itself has asserted is necessary for an approved bankruptcy plan.”
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