Clergy sex abuse survivors seek at least $100M and real estate assets

Guam Daily Post

December 2, 2021

By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

Clergy sex abuse survivors and other creditors in the Archdiocese of Agana’s bankruptcy are proposing much higher payouts, including more real property asset transfers and insurance payments for the victims, compared to the church’s proposal of up to $34 million.

The creditors’ committee, for example, is looking at a minimum of $100 million in settlement payments from insurance firms: $45 million from the archdiocese’s insurers, and “not less than” $55 million from the Boy Scouts of America’s insurers.

When the archdiocese submitted its reorganization plan and disclosure statement Thursday, it anticipated getting only $13 million from its two insurers. 

The Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors on Tuesday filed its own archdiocese reorganization plan to get the church out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A key part of the two competing plans is the cash, real property and other resources to help compensate some 270 individuals who claim they were raped, sexually abused or molested by priests and other members of the Guam clergy dating back to the 1950s.

The creditors’ committee seeks the transfer of more than 100 real property assets to a trust for abuse survivors if a separate case determines that the archdiocese holds title to disputed properties in Catholic parishes and schools.

These include lots adjacent to or near existing parish and school buildings, as well as cemetery lots, a land parcel in Tumon and two condominium units in the Philippines.

The church, meanwhile, offered to transfer about 40 real property assets worth up to $13.98 million to the trust, in addition to cash contributions and portions of proceeds from selling the Chancery and other assets.

The creditors provided a second option or a shorter list of assets to be transferred, in the event the court rules that the archdiocese does not have interest in certain disputed school and parish assets, in the separate case.

Under the creditors’ plan, the debtor or the archdiocese will transfer $8 million cash to the trust.

The archdiocese also will pay the trust $1 million every year for five years for a total cash contribution of $5 million following the effective date of the plan, the creditors stated.

The creditors’ committee chairperson, Leo Tudela, one of the clergy sex abuse survivors, and their Minneapolis-based attorney, Robert Kugler, submitted the plans in court.

That’s five days after Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes and church attorneys filed the archdiocese’s proposed reorganization plan and disclosure statement, including a survivors’ payout of $27.96 million to $34.38 million.

Idaho-based attorney Ford Elsaesser, representing the archdiocese, on Tuesday said he believes everyone on both sides hope to find a resolution “sooner rather than later because of the costs.”

“But right now, we just have to take one day at a time and we need to look at their plan, they need to take a hard look at our plan,” he told The Guam Daily Post on Tuesday, Guam time. “I am hoping there would be further discussions and negotiations and hopefully mediation on issues where we disagree.”

The next step, he said, would be the court setting hearings on the plans and disclosure statements that the archdiocese and the creditors’ committee submitted.

The creditors’ committee said it contests the archdiocese’s categorization of various property, so it presented its own liquidation analysis.

Church assets

When the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2019, it listed $22.96 million in assets, with $45.66 million in liabilities.

The creditors’ committee, in its Tuesday filing, said the archdiocese has some $70 million in assets, including $50 million in parish and school real property, and $12.5 million in other real property.

It said the archdiocese’s total liabilities are $60.47 million, resulting in net assets of $10 million.

The creditors noted that the court did not approve its request to have an independent financial advisor. The committee has used the debtor’s proposed asset and liability values, but it contests the debtor’s categorization of various properties.

On Wednesday, the archdiocese asked the court to approve its request to hire Deloitte & Touche LLP as its accountant in the bankruptcy case.

The archdiocese said the actual charges billed will be based on hourly rates ranging from $60 an hour to $225 an hour.