Victims committee eyes subpoenas for Boy Scouts records
DOVER, Del. (AP) — The official committee representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy is asking for authorization from the judge to issue subpoenas for information that it claims is being withheld by the organization and its local councils.
Attorneys for the tort claimants’ committee, or TCC, said in a court filing Tuesday that they need to review financial assets, troop and camp rosters, and insurance policies to participate in discussions regarding a possible global resolution of the thousands of sexual abuse claims that drove the Boy Scouts to seek bankruptcy protection.
“Without the facts in hand, the parties’ mediation may stall,” the court filing states.
The committee is seeking discovery from the BSA, members of an ad hoc committee of local councils and 47 specifically named councils, including eight that are members of the ad hoc committee.
“The examinees have slow-walked information on the local councils’ restricted assets and stonewalled on the roster requests, and the TCC has no confidence that all of the insurance policies have been produced,” attorneys said in the court filing.
The BSA said in a prepared statement Wednesday that all 253 local councils have agreed to share information with the tort claimants’ committee, including past and future transactions involving their assets.
“This clearly demonstrates that the BSA and the local councils are committed to working through a productive, mediated process that provides equitable compensation for survivors of past abuse in Scouting and ensures that the mission of Scouting can continue for America’s youth,” the organization said.
The Boy Scouts of America, based in Irving, Texas, sought bankruptcy protection in February in an effort to halt hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a compensation fund for men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.
A Delaware bankruptcy judge has set a Nov. 16 deadline for victims of child sex abuse to file claims in the bankruptcy case.
That date corresponds with the scheduled expiration of the court’s injunction halting child sex abuse lawsuits against the local councils. In return for protection from litigation, local councils were required to provide information to the Boy Scouts about their finances, including real estate holdings, for sharing with creditor committees.
The local councils, which run day-to-day operations for local troops, are not listed as debtors in the bankruptcy and are considered by the Boy Scouts to be legally separate entities, even though they are “related parties.” Attorneys for abuse victims have made clear that they will try to go after properties owned by the local councils to contribute to the fund for victims.
Among the information being sought by the tort claimants’ committee are records of any real or personal property valued at $250,000 or more that the BSA or a local council contends is restricted in its use or purpose and therefore unavailable for distribution to creditors. Financial records of local councils are needed to determine whether they are able to provide substantial contribution to any settlement and, in return, be protected from future lawsuits by claimants, according to the court filing.
The committee also wants to see insurance policies under which the BSA has or might have coverage for liability arising from sexual abuse claims, including policies for each year prior to 1963 and those issued by a variety of named companies for specific years ranging from 1975 to 2019. It also wants records of local council policies that might provide coverage for sexual abuse claims independent of coverage under BSA policies.
The committee also asserts that rosters of Boy Scout troops and camps are critical in assessing the validity of abuse claims against local councils and determining whether other parties, such as local churches or community organizations sponsoring Boy Scout troops, might also be liable.
Attorneys also noted that rosters of local troops could help corroborate certain claims, particularly if a claimant does not remember details such as the number of his Boy Scout troop, the name of its sponsoring organization, the names of adult leaders or the specific year in which he was abused.
“Since the vast majority of claimants were children and teens when they were abused, it is completely understandable that they would not be able to recall this information — some of the claimants were in second or third grade when they were sexually abused,” attorneys wrote.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Oct. 14.