The Boy Scouts of America deflected a report that the youth group might file for bankruptcy protection in the face of increasing sexual misconduct litigation, saying "no imminent actions or immediate decisions" are expected.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the youth organization was considering bankruptcy in the face of dwindling membership and mounting legal costs. The law firm Sidley Austin LLP was hired to explore options, the newspaper reported.
The law firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
Michael B. Surbaugh, chief scout executive, issued a statement "in anticipation of news reports that will speculate about the BSA’s financial position." He said the group was working with experts he did not name to explore all options aimed at ensuring that the group's programming continues uninterrupted.
"We have a social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in scouting," he said. "And we also have an obligation to carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities."
Surbaugh said the group is focused on keeping youth safe and preparing them for their futures through character development and values-based leadership training.
"To do so in perpetuity, we are working with experts to explore all options," he said. "We have a social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in scouting."
Sexual misconduct within the organization began to draw national attention in 2012, when a judge ordered the release of over 20,000 confidential documents revealing that over 1,000 leaders and volunteers had been banned between 1965 and 1985 after being accused of sexual or inappropriate conduct with boys.
Surbaugh, in his statement, apologized for anyone harmed during their time in scouting. One incident of child abuse is too many, he said, adding that the Boy Scouts have taken "proactive steps" to help victims heal and prevent future abuse.
He said the group has never knowingly allowed a sexual predator to work with youth.
"As you all know, we have always taken care of victims," he said. "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. "
Seeking relief from sexual abuse litigation through bankruptcy is not a new approach. USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy protection last week, saying the filing would aid resolution of litigation stemming from physician Larry Nassar’s sexual misconduct.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe filed for bankruptcy earlier this month after Archbishop John Wester said the diocese faced more than 35 active claims from sexual abuse victims. The watchdog website Bishopaccountablility.org says 19 diocese have filed for bankruptcy since an avalanche of abuse lawsuits began rolling out more than two decades ago.
The Boy Scouts – the program for 11- to 17-year-olds – has been attempting to rebrand itself. The group announced in May that it would change its name to Scouts BSA in February.
The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and the Cub Scouts – its program serving children from kindergarten through fifth grade – will keep its title. The organization already admits girls into the Cub Scouts, and Scouts BSA plans on accepting girls next year.