Wausau Pilot and Review
Multiple media outlets are reporting that Boy Scouts of America has hired a law firm specializing in bankruptcy proceedings, fueling speculation about the financial future of the nonprofit organization.
Citing dwindling membership and rising legal costs related to sexual abuse lawsuits, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the organization is indeed considering filing for bankruptcy protection.
“Leaders of the Boy Scouts, one of the country’s largest youth organizations, have hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP for assistance with a possible chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, according to people familiar with the matter,” the WSJ report reads.
The Boy Scouts, founded in 1910, released a letter to employees Wednesday that said it plans to “explore all options available to ensure that the local and national programming of the Boy Scouts of America continues uninterrupted.”
According to the letter, signed by Chief Scout Executive Michael B. Surbaugh:
“I am writing to you today in anticipation of news reports that will speculate about the BSA’s financial position. We have an important duty, and an incredible opportunity, to focus as an organization on keeping children safe, supported and protected, and preparing youth for their futures through our nation’s foremost program of character development and values-based leadership training.
To do so in perpetuity, we are working with experts to explore all options available to ensure that the local and national programming of the Boy Scout of America continues uninterrupted. We have a social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting, and we also have an obligation to carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities through our programs.
We care deeply about all victims of child sex abuse and we are steadfast in our belief that one incident of child abuse is one too many. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in our programs. As you all know, we have always taken care of victims – we believe them, we believe in fairly compensating them and we have paid for unlimited counseling, by a provider of their choice, regardless of the amount of time that has passed since an instance of abuse. Throughout our history we have taken proactive steps to help victims heal and prevent future abuse. I want to stress that at no time in our history have we knowingly allowed a sexual predator to work with youth, and we always seek to act swiftly when alerted to abuse allegations.”
Read the full letter here.
Participation in the organization’s programs has fallen in recent years, though the group opened some of its programs to girls and transgender boys. The Boy Scouts currently have more than 2.3 million youth members.
Locally, Samoset Council, which was founded in 1920, currently serves 6,300 youth in north-central Wisconsin. Samoset Council Executive/CEO Jeff Ottosen could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.