Creditors owed money by USA Gymnastics were given a chance Thursday to question one of the organization’s officials.
Four former gymnasts, who have come out publicly about their sexual abuse, questioned USAG Chief Financial Officer Scott Shollenbarger in testimony that lasted about three hours. Yet walking out of the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, the women were unsatisfied with the lack of answers to their questions.
“Today was a big day full of ‘I don’t knows.’ And that’s not why we left our children at home, and left our families, and took days off of work and lost wages to be here,” says Sarah Klein.
Klein was one of the first known victims of Larry Nassar early on in his career prior to becoming the USAG team doctor. She says she was first sexually abused by Nassar when she was 8 years-old, three to four times a week, for 17 years.
Reflecting back on the past year, from Nassar's guily plea and sentencing to USAG filing for bankruptcy, Klein says she feels there are still questions that need to be answered by USAG.
“The abuse that we suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar was extremely traumatizing and harmful, but I would say that the behavior of USA Gymnastics is a second level of abuse over and over and over again,” she says.
Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires the debtor, in this case USAG, to attend a meeting of creditors where they are able to ask the debtor questions under oath. Shollenbarger was the only USAG employee in attendance accompanied by legal counsel. After some questioning from the U.S. Trustee, the floor opened to creditors and legal counsel representing creditors.
When asked questions including those about the analysis of all claims, severance payments and insurance policies, Shollenbarger, who’s only held that post about six months, left questions unanswered citing his limited knowledge – in part due to his short time on the job.
After the meeting concluded, USAG released a statement and said Shollenbarger had the necessary financial information to respond to questions pertaining to that subject during the meeting.
“One of the reasons that USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 protection is to facilitate the expeditious and equitable resolution of the claims made by survivors," the USAG statement said. "Pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code, today’s meeting of creditors was focused on financial issues, and our chief financial officer had the necessary financial information to respond. Following the question and answer session of our chief financial officer, the attorney for the U.S. Trustee closed and concluded the meeting of creditors. USA Gymnastics intends to continue to work cooperatively with survivors.”
However, survivors committee co-chair Tasha Schwikert, who's also spoken about her abuse from Nassar, says even when it came to questions related to the bankruptcy, she felt like most didn’t even get an answer.
“They had to have known we were going to ask questions related to issues that have happened and financial issues over the last few decades," says Schwikert. “And they brought someone who was hired in July of 2018.”
Rachael Denhollander was the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexually abusing her as a child. She says she and other survivors have tried unsuccessfully for years to meet with USAG officials. After getting the chance to ask questions in the meeting, Denhollander says she feels insulted from the lack of answers given.
“We’ve been in litigation for three years; we’ve been asking these questions for three years,” says Denhollander. “The most basic question we’ve asked, is please go find out who those predators are; find out those children you need to protect. And they haven’t done that much three years later.”
“We’re not here for money,” she says. “We’re here for reform and the court process is a way to get it.”
Denhollander, Schwikert, Klein and Marcia Frederick – who was sexually abused, but not by Nassar – all stood on the steps of the courthouse saying that their work in making gymnastics safe for children will continue.
“I think we continue working together, for accountability and reform and for the safety of every athlete in that organization,” says Denhollander. “We’re not going anywhere.”
“We’re not stopping,” says Frederick.
USAG is scheduled to have a bankruptcy court hearing later this month. USAG filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, as a means of resolving dozens of lawsuits filed by about 350 plaintiffs.