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Boy Scouts of America: $850m deal agreed over sexual abuse claims

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image captionLawyers for the victims say the settlement is the largest of its kind in US history

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has reached a preliminary $850m (£617m) settlement with some 60,000 people over claims of historic sexual abuse.

Lawyers say it may be the largest sexual abuse settlement in US history.

In terms of reported numbers, it dwarves similar complaints made against the Catholic Church in the country.

The BSA has apologised to victims and filed for bankruptcy last year, saying it would set up a compensation trust for victims of sexual abuse.

Back in 2012, the Los Angeles Times newspaper uncovered about 5,000 files detailing allegations against scout masters and troop leaders who had been deemed “ineligible volunteers”.

But most incidents had not been reported to police.

In a statement, the 111-year-old organisation said that its latest agreement was part of “ongoing efforts to reach a global resolution that will equitably compensate survivors and ensure Scouting’s future”.

The settlement needs to be approved by a judge and voted on by the entire group of survivors, but faces opposition from insurers who are expected to have to pay out millions of dollars.

Under another agreement, expected to be filed on Friday, local BSA councils are expected to contribute $600m towards the settlement fund, according to news agency AP.

Doug Kennedy is one of nine victims chosen by the Department of Justice to represent the group of survivors. He voted to make the proposed settlement deal with the BSA public.

“It’s very difficult for me to say that the Boy Scouts are doing the right thing. They’re doing the best they can right now,” he says, contrasting the organisation with the BSA’s insurance companies who have not yet offered sufficient compensation.

“What’s really important from a survivors standpoint is all those insurance companies were paid for with our dues,” he told BBC News on Friday.

“Kids scraped up money to be in the Boy Scouts and part of that went on to pay for those policies. And all we’re asking now is that those insurance companies pay off on that money they took all those decades ago.”

Ken Rothweiler, one of three lead negotiators for the group of victims, told local news outlet NPR that he was pleased that the BSA and its local councils had “stepped up to be the first to compensate the survivors”.

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image captionBoy Scouts walk around a campsite

But another of the group’s lawyer’s, Tim Kosnoff, told NPR that it was a “rotten, chump deal”.

“I don’t know how you can characterise this as anything but a failure,” said Mr Kosnoff.

He said that some men who had been abused for years could get pay-outs of just a few thousand dollars, describing it as “an insult to all of the men who found the courage to file claims and participated in this process”.

A handful of insurers for BSA – who would be responsible for separate pay-outs – have also accused the organisation of excluding them from negotiations, saying they gave the victims’ lawyers too much influence over the final settlement.

“With only the fox guarding the hen-house, the outcome is utterly at odds with what BSA itself asserted was necessary for a confirmable (bankruptcy) plan,” the insurers said in a statement.

Jordan Merson, a lawyer who represent over 300 former Boy Scouts in the case, says this preliminary settlement is “just the beginning” and that future settlement payments could amount to “billions” of dollars.

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