The magnitude of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) decades-long sexual abuse scandal may be even worse than originally thought. It started with an alarming file that surfaced late last year, listing more than 12,000 victims and 7,800 scout leaders known or suspected to have sexually abused boys. Now, lawyers representing 800 victims are saying hundreds more alleged perpetrators are not named in those files.
This is one of several aftershocks since the list of victims and abusers initially became public. Last December, the BSA announced that it is “exploring all options available” — which includes possibly filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If the nonprofit makes that move, the investigation and lawsuits will come to a temporary halt, delaying the victims’ ability to hold the BSA responsible. It will still have to face the plaintiffs at a later date, but it’s difficult to tell when that will be.
There is another hurdle that victims will face as they pursue justice. Any potential settlements with the BSA may be taxable under President Trump’s new tax reform law, which prevents individuals and businesses from getting a tax write-off from the settlements and related legal fees. According to Section 162(q) of the tax code:
(q) PAYMENTS RELATED TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL ABUSE. — No deduction shall be allowed under this chapter for — (1) any settlement or payment related to sexual harassment or sexual abuse if such settlement or payment is subject to a nondisclosure agreement, or (2) attorney’s fees related to such a settlement or payment.
In other words, if there is a non-disclosure agreement involved in the BSA’s operations, the organization would not be able to receive a tax deduction on their payment, settlement, or legal fees. (Not that it’s a bad thing in this case. The BSA shouldn’t be given any breaks.) However, the new tax law could also be harmful for plaintiffs. The “Harvey Weinstein tax” means that sex abuse victims will not be able to deduct their attorney fees if they receive a settlement from a sexual harassment case. To them, this is simply adding insult to injury.
The BSA is one of the largest youth organizations in the US, with more than 2.4 million young participants and nearly 1 million adult volunteers. As more allegations come out, it’s unclear how the victims will get justice or how deep the issue runs within the organization.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).