It has direct influence at their reserves.
This makes sense to me.
In order to finance big building projects, the WTS would need to secure huge loans. They are, in general, asset rich but cash flow poor.
In order to get those loans, I imagine they have to prove to the lending institution that they have a certain level of financial reserves.
If they have $X in reserve, but [X times a certain percentage] is in "danger" due to potential or pending lawsuits, then maybe they don't get the loans they need.
And, given the size and scope of the Catholic child abuse lawsuits, it is easy to imagine that the "certain percentage" in my equation above might be pretty large.
Financial institutions have dramatically tightened their lending policies since the 2008 financial crisis, and that is more or less when the most radical changes have been occurring in WT-world.
If they can't get loans, what would happen? Exactly what has happened: a moratorium on all large scale building projects and massive cutbacks in expenses (i.e. personnel).
The puzzle pieces seem to fit well together.