Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has filed for bankruptcy protection after thousands of fresh sexual abuse claims were made against the organisation.
The filing was made in Delaware by the historic group – which could have to pay out billions of dollars in compensation to thousands of alleged victims – to give it temporary protection from its creditors.
If the group was to go bust it could be one of the most complex bankruptcies in history, with the organisation’s presence in all 50 states, as well as its ties to civic and church partners.
Image: The organisation may have to sell its assets
Masses of lawyers are seeking settlements for thousands of men who say they were sexually abused by leaders decades ago.
Filing for bankruptcy protection means the BSA can pause the lawsuits, but in the meantime it could be forced to sell off its huge number of assets including campsites and hiking trails, to try and raise hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ongoing lawsuits have already led to the organisation mortgaging some of its major national properties, including the US headquarters in Texas and a 140,000-acre ranch in New Mexico, to help secure a new line of credit and buy it some time.
A spokesman for the organisation said: “Scouting programmes will continue throughout this process and for many years to come.
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“Local councils are not filing for bankruptcy because they are legally separate and distinct organisations.”
The long-respected BSA has struggled in recent times, due to declining memberships and rafts of abuse allegations, stretching all the way back to the 1980s.
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Since the mid-1980s, the organisation introduced new prevention policies on leadership applicants including background checks, abuse-prevention training and a rule that requires more then one adult be around at all times.
As far back as the 1920s, the organisation kept confidential files listing staff and volunteers implicated in sexual abuse in an effort to keep them away from young people.
As of January, court documents listed 7,819 potential abusers and 12,254 alleged victims.
Source : Sky News