The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy protection following multiple abuse lawsuits.
The BSA says the move will allow it to build a compensation fund for abuse victims.
As a result of the move, all civil lawsuits against it are put on hold.
The BSA is struggling with declining membership as well as abuse claims.
Chief executive Roger Mosby said in a statement: “The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children.”
Court papers filed in Delaware listed liabilities of up to $1 billion and assets of as much as $10 billion, reports say.
The filing was made under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code which allows the group to keep operating and pay its creditors over time.
The bankruptcy allows the BSA to bring all of the lawsuits into one court and try to negotiate a settlement, rather than using its funds to fight each case in court.
The group said it was setting up a trust fund to compensate victims.
Roger Mosby said in a statement: “While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process – with the proposed trust structure – will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the BSA has 261 councils which operate local troops and own assets including land in many states. The bankruptcy move is designed to protect those councils, which hold about 70% of all BSA assets, the publication says.
In its statement, the BSA said the councils, which are legally separate and financially independent of the national organization, had not filed for bankruptcy.