Boy Scouts' Initial $850 Million Child Sex Abuse Settlement Could Lead to Billions in Payments

An $850 million settlement between the Boy Scouts of America and tens of thousands of former scouts who say they were sexually abused was finalized on Thursday. However, additional legal actions could lead to billions more in payments.

"I am pleased that both the BSA and their local councils have stepped up to be the first to compensate the survivors," Ken Rothweiler, an attorney who represents over 16,000 of those involved in Thursday's massive settlement, said in a statement to NBC News.

"We will now negotiate with the insurers and sponsoring and chartering organizations who have billions of dollars in legal exposure, of which a substantial portion is necessary to fairly compensate the survivors," added Rothweiler.

Thursday's settlement, which was outlined in court documents, was part of a Chapter 11 restructuring agreement BSA reached after filing for bankruptcy last year. Over 60,000 former scouts have sued BSA for child sex abuse that they say took place over the course of decades.

In a statement obtained by Newsweek, BSA said it was "pleased to report that we have made substantial progress in our Chapter 11 case as part of our ongoing efforts to reach a global resolution that will equitably compensate survivors and ensure Scouting's future by resolving past abuse cases for both the national organization and local councils."

boy scouts of america sex abuse settlement
The Boy Scouts of America settled with nearly 17,000 victims on Thursday evening in the largest sex abuse settlement in the United States. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

BSA said that the settlement included its own $250 million contribution into "a trust that will provide compensation to survivors of abuse," along with another $500 million in cash and property contributions from local councils. In addition, local councils will be providing $100 million for a separate trust.

"This significant step toward a global resolution benefits the entire Scouting community, as this agreement will help local councils make their contributions to the Trust without additional drain on their assets, and will allow them to move forward with the national organization toward emergence from bankruptcy," BSA said.

"There is still much to be done to obtain approval from the Court to solicit survivors to vote for the BSA's amended Plan of Reorganization," the organization added. "However, with this encouraging and significant step forward, the BSA is wholeheartedly committed to working toward a global resolution."

If evenly divided, eligible victims would receive around $14,000 each under the $850 million settlement. Rothweiler said that the deal was "the largest settlement of sexual abuse claims in United States history."

However, BSA has also agreed to transfer insurance rights to victims, something that could result in far more funds eventually being paid out. Lawyers for victims recently balked at a $650 million settlement offer from The Hartford, one of BSA's insurers.

BSA itself was valued at over $3.7 billion as of March 2021, according to USA Today.