Boy Scouts of America may be taking a similar approach as USA Gymnastics to mounting legal fees related to sex abuse lawsuits. According to the Wall Street Journal, the over a century-old nonprofit is considering filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Amid “dwindling membership and escalating legal costs related to lawsuits over how it handled allegations of sex abuse,” the Journal reports, Boy Scouts of America has hired a law firm to begin to work through the bankruptcy process.
Filing for bankruptcy would stop the litigation from several lawsuits alleging that employees and volunteers engaged in inappropriate conduct with members. Some of the allegations date back decades, including as far back as the 1960s. With the litigation halted, the organization would have a better chance of negotiating with those bringing the suits.
The Journal reports that the nonprofit sent a letter to employees Wednesday announcing that it is exploring “all options available to ensure that the local and national programming of the Boy Scouts of America continues uninterrupted.” In their exploration of the bankruptcy filing, leaders of the nonprofit have hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP.
Among the legal fees paid out by the Boy Scouts is $7.6 million in 2017, $3.5 million in 2016 and $859,347 in 2015, according to public filings.
Along with the financially crippling lawsuits, the organization is suffering from dwindling membership, now at around 2.3 million. The nonprofit has attempted to reverse the trend by opening up its programs to girls, including girls who identify as boys, a decision that has resulted in an increasingly ugly public feud between the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, which likewise faces dwindling numbers.
The organization has also agreed in recent years to allow gay men and lesbians to serve in leadership roles, which in part prompted the Mormon Church to announce in 2017 that it was withdrawing from the organization’s programs for older boys.
As Fox Business notes, other organizations, including multiple Catholic dioceses and USA Gymnastics, have resorted to bankruptcy recently in response to similar lawsuits.
Last week, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy amid a flood of sexual abuse lawsuits related to the decades-long sexual abuse by former doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced in January to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting more than 150 girls and women.