"F--- you, Oprah. I am the new queen of daytime talk!"
June 6, 2016 11:17 AM   Subscribe

"Any idiot can get into it, and I can prove that to you, because I'm an idiot and I started a debt buying company and it was disturbingly easy," Oliver said. John Oliver forgave nearly $15 million of medical debt with a tap of a giant red button on Sunday night.
posted by episodic (128 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
Could we get a pool going? Like an insurance group, where you pay a premium, and we take those premiums and buy debt and pay it off? Is that a thing? Can we make it a thing? MetaDebt.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:23 AM on June 6, 2016 [74 favorites]


John Oliver is killing it, to wit:

Oliver said to close his show. "F--- you, Oprah. I am the new queen of daytime talk!"

So much snarky win in the face of so much systemic fail.

Could we get a pool going? Like an insurance group, where you pay a premium, and we take those premiums and buy debt and pay it off? Is that a thing? Can we make it a thing? MetaDebt.


oh god please no
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:25 AM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, why does the ripmedicaldebt.org website go straight to a WordPress Installation page?
posted by jillithd at 11:26 AM on June 6, 2016


rollingjubilee.org
posted by gwint at 11:27 AM on June 6, 2016 [50 favorites]


Oliver is a goddamn treasure. Since the RIPMD site is down, I can only assume that they will contact each of those 9000 people and say "guess what, your debt is gone. have a great day!"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:28 AM on June 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I was snarking about MetaDebt, but could people collectively buy their debt at reduced prices and dissolve it? I am close to being the least financially competent person on the planet, so I'm just wondering if there's something obvious I'm missing.

Like rollilngjubilee.org, but instead of donating to buy anonymous debt, you and your kin somehow buying your own debt through an instrument similar to John Oliver's.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:29 AM on June 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


This appears to be the RIP site.
posted by matt_od at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2016


I think the way these things operate is that you don't get to pick and choose whose debt you buy. The only way it works for the seller is that they can bundle the truly uncollectible stuff with some things that they consider possibly collectible. It's like how you can't buy insurance after having an accident. If people got to pick and choose, then they'd have to assume that if you wanted to buy only Jane Brown's debt, then that must have some particular value (to you, or in general) and then they'd charge way more.
posted by Sequence at 11:41 AM on June 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


The economics of the debt collection business, involve buying large batches of debt which have been discounted because they are hard to collect, and collecting enough from a few of those debtors, to make back the investment for the whole batch. Then they sell the rest down market at a steeper discount. If you just want to buy yours, you have to talk to the company that currently owns it. And when you approach them, they now see you as a live fish who can be made to pay more than average, and they'll be trying extort as much from you as they can, and they know all the dirty tricks.

Buying it in bulk is what gets the cheap rates. Trying to pick and choose which debt to buy, drives the price up exponentially. Because the debts you want to buy are suddenly the valuable ones that are going to pay off.
posted by elizilla at 11:43 AM on June 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


This is wonderful, but I'm concerned that the attention on Oliver's debt buying obscures some of the broader problems here:
  • This particular debt was already past the statue of limitations and could never have been collected in court, yet collectors are still allowed to harass people over it, sometimes without disclosing this fact.
  • Zombie debt, as mentioned in Oliver's story. There's no particularly good reason to believe that the forgiven debt wasn't also sold to other collectors who will still try to harass people over it.
  • The entire business is shady as hell.
  • People shouldn't be able to amass massive amounts of frickin' medical debt in the first place.
posted by zachlipton at 11:46 AM on June 6, 2016 [67 favorites]


John Oliver has turned out to be John Stewart's replacement. Poor Noah needs to go back to standup.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:51 AM on June 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


This shouldn't be possible.
posted by tommasz at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2016


John Oliver has turned out to be John Stewart's replacement. Poor Noah needs to go back to standup.

John Oliver is much more politically active than John Stewart. Ditto Samantha Bee. The game has changed.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:54 AM on June 6, 2016 [85 favorites]


I was snarking about MetaDebt, but could people collectively buy their debt at reduced prices and dissolve it?

This is essentially what you do when you bargain with a debt collector, or hire a service that promises to clear your debts at a discount. They charge a fee for their services, so there's that. (This version is probably the honey on the stick, and less scrupulous debt collection services are the stick.)

John Oliver Rocks! Now, his crew put up about $60K to acquire this list, so the apples to oranges comparison (to Oprah) is a bit off, but still: he owned those debts and my guess is that his investment might have been multiplied many times had he set up a boiler room and went about collections.

I like the idea of someone opening one of those envelopes and seeing a balance with zeroes on the bottom line. (Hi Mr & Mrs ..... Remember that 40K you owe the hosptial?--forgettaboutit!)

J.O. = J.S. on steroids.
posted by mule98J at 11:55 AM on June 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I can only assume that they will contact each of those 9000 people and say "guess what, your debt is gone. have a great day!"

Per the comments on the post on the RIP website they send letters to everyone whose debt has been wiped out.
posted by schoolgirl report at 11:57 AM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


IIRC there were weird tax consequences to the Oprah car giveaway. Please tell me there are no weird tax consequences for these people.
posted by nat at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


IIRC there were weird tax consequences to the Oprah car giveaway. Please tell me there are no weird tax consequences for these people.


There were tax consequences for the cars because they had value and were gifts over a certain dollar amount. This is forgiving debts, there isn't tax on that.
posted by synthetik at 12:03 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


IIRC there were weird tax consequences to the Oprah car giveaway. Please tell me there are no weird tax consequences for these people.

People far smarter than us have analyzed this.

This is forgiving debts, there isn't tax on that.

There are most certainly taxes on forgiving debts. Otherwise every CEO would take out a loan and have it instantly forgiven for their salary. The key thing with these organizations is "detached and disinterested generosity" which means the forgiveness isn't counted as income but as a gift.
posted by Talez at 12:07 PM on June 6, 2016 [29 favorites]


"Biggest TV gift ever" is a dubious claim. The gift has multiple values:

$15 millions is how much someone claimed it was worth - but nobody actually believed that, which is why it sold for 1/2 cent on the dollar

$60 grand is what he actually paid for it, which is I suppose what it was worth to the previous holders of the debt. But that is merely the pricetag, the agreed-upon value to the debt holder. Not an assessment of actual value.

$0 is what it was legally worth, because the debt had expired.

As far as I can tell, the actual value of the gift to the debtors was in the supposed elimination of harassment by illegitimate agencies that would try to collect on expired debt.

I mean, I can write an IOU for a million dollars and give it to a friend. If she sells that to a 3rd party for $100, and that 3rd party burns the IOU, that doesn't mean the 3rd party gave me a million dollars or a hundred dollars.

I think Oliver makes great TV. I wish each of his episodes were spun into a miniseries of their own, where he investigated each topic more deeply, showing the long-term impact of his stunts and building action in his viewing demographic for helping sustain the action.
posted by rebent at 12:23 PM on June 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


"As far as I can tell, the actual value of the gift to the debtors was in the supposed elimination of harassment by illegitimate agencies that would try to collect on expired debt."

As well as all of the money that a lot of them would have paid to the agencies.
posted by serena15221 at 12:38 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love how this huge gift to many thousand people is immediately being poo-poohed by folks here because the comedy show isn't being 100% accurate about the particulars of this exact debt package.
posted by xingcat at 12:39 PM on June 6, 2016 [79 favorites]


I love this. This is more or less what I fantasized about doing if I'd won that Powerball.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:41 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


So did Oprah pay full price for the cars?
posted by eruonna at 12:41 PM on June 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


There's no particularly good reason to believe that the forgiven debt wasn't also sold to other collectors who will still try to harass people over it.

Because you can't sell something you've already sold?

And the value for the people really is $15 million. Did you miss the part about how they can take this debt to court and if you don't show up to point out that it's expired, suddenly they ARE authorized to collect it again and they can even dock your pay cheques? Did you hear about how people don't know the debt is expired so they get harassed into paying it anyway? Or did you know about how this debt wipes out people's credit ratings?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:43 PM on June 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Hmmm...

Who’s Afraid of Occupy? The John Oliver Show Erases Debt Resistance

Wilson told us Last Week Tonight was interested in reproducing our feat. Because LWT has previously done a good job of highlighting the outrageousness and injustice of various issues, we were under the impression they were interested in highlighting the mechanisms of oppression used by the creditor class as well as our ongoing organizing work to challenge these unjust arrangements. We spent hours on the phone and email with them explaining how we did our work and connecting them to other experts and resources.

At the last minute Wilson told us LWT did not want to associate themselves with the work of the Rolling Jubilee due to its roots in Occupy Wall Street.
posted by gwint at 12:44 PM on June 6, 2016 [34 favorites]


On one hand, this is a great gesture and an equally great way of showing people what a goddamn writhing mass of snakes debt collection and medical debt are in the US.

On the other hand, I'm now picturing a room full of Very Serious Men with furrowed brows, trying to figure out how they're going to keep the peasantry from employing some sort of mass distributed action to buy heavily discounted medical debt for philanthropic reasons. And these Very Serious Men aren't going to come up with "let's forgive old debt!" as a plan; they're going to lobby Congress to make medical debt undischargeable in bankruptcy. After all, it's unsecured debt. What's keeping those filthy poors from racking up a million dollars' worth of chemo bills and then defaulting?
posted by Mayor West at 12:44 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the actual value of the gift to the debtors was in the supposed elimination of harassment by illegitimate agencies that would try to collect on expired debt.

(a) You're a little confused. Debt doesn't "expire." The statute of limitations on suing to collect the debt can run, meaning that one can't sue to collect it. The missed payments may be more than seven years old, meaning, in most cases, that the debt won't appear on a credit report. But the debt still exists. Which means...

(b) You are vastly vastly underestimating the value of even reducing the harassment of the debtors by credit agencies.
posted by praemunire at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


I'm not sure the very serious men/banks are opposed to this. I mean he bought the debt. What's it to them if he then forgives it? The bank got the same money they would get if they had sold to a collection agency.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:51 PM on June 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Biggest TV gift ever" is a dubious claim. The gift has multiple values:

$15 millions is how much someone claimed it was worth - but nobody actually believed that, which is why it sold for 1/2 cent on the dollar


That's the joke. He's pointing out the absurdity of the valuation by heightening the act.
posted by Think_Long at 12:53 PM on June 6, 2016 [31 favorites]


There's no particularly good reason to believe that the forgiven debt wasn't also sold to other collectors who will still try to harass people over it.

I couldn't figure out how you would think this possible and then I realized that maybe you're confusing "selling debt" with "hiring a collection agency to collect your debt." These aren't the same thing. When you sell the debt, you have literally sold your right over that money and collecting it. You're not paying someone to collect it. Instead they're paying YOU to let them collect it and then keep whatever they collect. Once they've sold that right they no longer have it which means they can't sell it to anyone else.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:59 PM on June 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Anecdote time!

In 2014, I decided to try one of those newfangled HSA health insurance plans through my employer, because all their calculators made it sound like it was a cheaper option. Essentially, you have a very high deductible, but your employer pays into a savings account every month that you use to pay for the deductible and for your copays. Anyway, because Blue Cross is actually a cheap rubber mask stretched over the greasy face of Lucifer himself, things got messed up in a bad way, and all my doctor's appointments from the second half of the year started showing up in the mail marked as unpaid. I called a bunch of places, told them "No, actually, the insurance fucked this up, and I've already hit my deductible, so rebill them and you'll get paid." Blue Cross, in a cheerful show of contempt for the common man, refused to pay, so I spent a bunch more time on the phone arguing with their claims adjustors (who I have no real beef with and who are probably making $9/hour because their job is to stonewall people who ACTUALLY HAVE INSURANCE BENEFITS). By the time I started to sort things out, it had been way more than 90 days since the original bills had been issued, so of course the hospitals sold the debt to collections.

Now, I have the best of intentions with regards to debts. Really I do. I was even ready to throw up my hands in disgust, and pay the $80 or whatever it was to the aggrieved parties, even though it was 100% not my fault. Except, the first time I did so, I got another call the next week from a different agency, wanting the same debt (with 4 digits of precision, from the same hospital) to be repaid. Someone, somewhere, packaged up my multiple-outstanding-bills-for-small-amounts-of-money, and shuffled them off to the four corners of the earth, where they promptly got illegally resold to multiple people.

So, now whenever one of these asshats calls me, I play the merry game of "I read through the FDCPA and can bluff better than you can." It's been enlightening. The stakes are apparently nonexistent--the dollar amounts are so low that no one has actually tried to ding my credit (which I await with RAPTUROUS glee; you can get actual damages back if they do that illegally), but I'm apparently still in the "high payment probability" pool, so I continue to get calls about these damned things, even after I've made it perfectly clear that they're doing all manner of illegal shit, that they're wasting hours of their employees' lives chasing inconsequential amounts of money, and that I live in a state whose attorney general eats these guys for breakfast. I love this kind of stuff, and will happily keep them on the phone for half an hour while I feed my daughter dinner, or clean the catbox, or whatever. But I have a shit-ton of social capital that most people in this situation don't, and when I imagine this same series of harassing phone calls directed at people who really can't afford the $80, or the credit hit they'll take, or the time to fight these scumbags on their own terms, it fills me with a blind rage.

All to say: good on you, John Oliver. When the revolution comes, it'll be the insurance execs who are the first ones with their backs against the walls.
posted by Mayor West at 1:05 PM on June 6, 2016 [114 favorites]


Once they've sold that right they no longer have it which means they can't sell it to anyone else.

Legally, no. As a practical matter, these companies tend to invest exactly zero in administration, book-keeping, and other tedious cost-centers, which means that it is not unheard of (though not the most common scenario) for two creditors to end up claiming rights in the same debt. It's a nightmare for all involved.
posted by praemunire at 1:06 PM on June 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


It should be illegal to sell debt after you have written it off. You get a choice, you can sell the debt for pennies on the dollar or you can benefit from the tax advantages of writing the debt off, not both.
posted by Broken Ankle at 1:08 PM on June 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


I wonder if we'll end up seeing any news stories about the individuals who had their debt forgiven? I can see this as something that might show up on local news or upworthy or some such.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:12 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I couldn't figure out how you would think this possible and then I realized that maybe you're confusing "selling debt" with "hiring a collection agency to collect your debt." These aren't the same thing. When you sell the debt, you have literally sold your right over that money and collecting it. You're not paying someone to collect it. Instead they're paying YOU to let them collect it and then keep whatever they collect. Once they've sold that right they no longer have it which means they can't sell it to anyone else.

Yes. That's how it's supposed to work. But as Oliver himself discussed on the show, "zombie debt" is a huge problem. Debt collectors calling about debt you already paid is a big enough problem that the CFPB has a Q&A about it. Here's a settlement with a debt collector where the allegations include knowingly trying to collect "fraudulent, already paid, or settled debts."

By the time this particular Excel spreadsheet made it to Oliver, it passed through a ton of hands in a particularly shady business. All it takes is just one of those bottom-feeding firms to bungle their recordkeeping or someone to deliberately sell the same debt twice because nobody would likely ever be the wiser and that's how you meet your quarterly bonus target, and the same debt will multiply itself.

So ideally it doesn't happen, but there's certainly a decent risk that this forgiven debt pops up again someplace else and never truly dies.
posted by zachlipton at 1:14 PM on June 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


There are most certainly taxes on forgiving debts. Otherwise every CEO would take out a loan and have it instantly forgiven for their salary.

I.R.C. § 61(a)(12)

It's right there up front in the definition of gross income.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:17 PM on June 6, 2016


Yes. That's what I said.
posted by Talez at 1:19 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm agreeing with you. I just thought a code reference would be helpful.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:23 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure the very serious men/banks are opposed to this. I mean he bought the debt. What's it to them if he then forgives it? The bank got the same money they would get if they had sold to a collection agency.

The idea that there is any way out of a debt other than paying it, and especially paying a high multiple of the principle, is terrifying and infuriating to the very serious men and the bankers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:27 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sure but "Hope John Oliver buys my debt and forgives it" isn't a very workable plan to bet on.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:35 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Agreed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:51 PM on June 6, 2016


The idea that there is any way out of a debt other than paying it, and especially paying a high multiple of the principle, is terrifying and infuriating to the very serious men and the bankers.

When it comes to debt that has been sold to collectors for a loss, they're not looking at the principle. All they care about is collecting more in aggregate than they paid for the debt, so they will negotiate a reduced settlement (I mean they're still horrible vultures). They only have to settle a very small percentage of the accounts they hold in order to profit, for which they paid very little. The originator already took the loss and wrote off the debt in their books.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:00 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rolling Jubilee previously
posted by adamvasco at 2:05 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]




> Sure but "Hope John Oliver buys my debt and forgives it" isn't a very workable plan to bet on.

Better odds than me hitting the Powerball? Because that's the current plan.
posted by davelog at 2:37 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure the very serious men/banks are opposed to this. I mean he bought the debt. What's it to them if he then forgives it? The bank got the same money they would get if they had sold to a collection agency.

It's a perverse industry, but it's still an industry, where the movement of money changing hands creates additional value. Definitely if this becomes a regular practice you won't be able to buy this much debt for $60k. So that $60k that is discharged could've provided for a boiler room of (miserable) debt collectors all taking a small salary and meager commission to feed their families and pay their landlords, etc.

I've written the data extract tools to build these spreadsheets which are typically CSV files. I've been the developer saying "are you sure you want to turn over THiS many accounts to collections after making no effort to collect yourselves over the last X years?" Once I was instrumental in landing $250k in one quarter and knew the whole thing would backfire but was under strict orders to flag "these" accounts for turnover to "soft collections" where our patients were suddenly getting letters from "Sun West Bank." Basically this is all an administrative nightmare that multiplies as debt changes hands. Certainly it's a customer service nightmare too, but it's not uncommon for doctors and hospital administrators to see patients in "this" category of delinquency as "deadbeats." Term of art.
posted by aydeejones at 2:44 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


The $250k was turned into annual bonuses for everyone in the company btw, and almost all of that balance ended up back on the company's books because it was so atrociously turned over, i.e. old debt from patients who are still being seen and on payment plans and obviously making an effort to pay down each month
posted by aydeejones at 2:45 PM on June 6, 2016


And it is funny how little data collectors want, they might provide some huge complex spec and then flag 10 fields as required and handwave when you ask them how to interpret their requirements against your data in an effort to provide more detail. They do typically want to know the date that you last received a penny from the person to value the entire spreadsheet.

The less data the less liability they have to protect it and the less time they spend explaining their aggression over the phone. They absolutely want social security numbers for "skip tracing" aka "hunting people like dogs" and doing credit checks or reporting "bad debt" to credit agencies.
posted by aydeejones at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sure but "Hope John Oliver buys my debt and forgives it" isn't a very workable plan to bet on.

It's still a more sound plan than "Hope United Healthcare actually covers this like they assured me they would."

Blue Cross, in a cheerful show of contempt for the common man, refused to pay

Blue Cross once denied me a claim for a year and a half because they didn't get a response from my previous doctor no matter how many emails and faxes they sent him. Of course, as I had to explain to them multiple times, that's an unfortunate trend when a practice shuts down following the death of the physician. They finally called me to tell me that they were going to cover my appointment approximately ten minutes after I broke down and paid for it out of pocket.
posted by dances with hamsters at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


My mother got a letter from a debt-collector today, addressed to my father, saying he owes Verizon $42.

He died in 2002.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:53 PM on June 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Re: Taxes on forgiven debt. When our bankruptcy was finalized in 2014, we received tax forms from all of the major companies we listed. We had to pay taxes of those forgiven debts. Not sure if this falls under that scope. Just an FYI for this discussion.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:59 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


In related news, Mr. Oliver has officially left The Bugle.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 3:09 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


According to this guy, there's an exception in the tax code to taxes on cancellation of debt income for debt that would have given rise to a tax deduction if paid, for which medical debts qualify, so they won't end up owing taxes to the IRS.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 3:11 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


What bothers me about the debt collection industry is how everybody's ire—including Oliver's, in this piece—seems directed at the debt buyers, and never the original creditors.

Yes, it's shitty that some faceless paper company can buy an Excel spreadsheet full of your debts. You know what's worse? That a major bank can transact business with customers for years and then suddenly sell the right to collect those accounts over to some faceless paper company. You think it's bad that debt buyers purchase debts without the corresponding statements, applications, etc? I agree. But I think it's far worse that a major bank would ever be allowed to sell debts without the corresponding statements, applications, etc. Chase, Citibank, Bank of America? They are the ones you contracted with. They're the ones screwing you.

The debt collection industry is in flux right now. John Oliver is arriving to the party about a year after the CFPB and various attorneys general, so his report doesn't really tell the whole story. But generally speaking, it's the original creditors who cause this stuff to happen. When you can't make your minimum payments, you call the bank and ask for a reduced payment plan. They tell you to get bent, then they charge-off your account and sell it on an Excel spreadsheet without including the supporting documents. That should be illegal.
posted by cribcage at 3:33 PM on June 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


One thing that struck me—a list of names, addresses, and social security numbers being sold to random companies seems like a recipe for identity fraud. Have social security numbers totally been given up on as private information that should be secured?
posted by Bunglegirl at 4:23 PM on June 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


I like John Oliver and it's a good gimmick to attract attention to the fact that the debt collectors are not banks, but fly-by-night operators. This isn't much of a giveaway; as noted above, even if someone pays off their debt to one of these collectors there is a high chance of being contacted by the other collectors for the same debt. So I don't know that anyone is going to be saved from harassment. (On a relatively minor note, I suspect that the majority of this debt is for people who have already died and had no estate to extract money from.)
posted by stowaway at 4:38 PM on June 6, 2016


In related news, Mr. Oliver has officially left The Bugle. Oh no, that's awful. Still, LWT probably takes a ton of time. Any word on what the podcast's going to do without him?
posted by JHarris at 4:43 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hope that people aren't seeing this as some kind of feel good story. It's not. I hope it gets lots and lots of coverage, and I hope nobody thinks this is a solution or a happy ending of any sort. This stuff is going on all over the place, every day, and it needs to stop.

Decades ago, I was billed by a major public hospital for some debts I didn't owe, and despite repeatedly clearing it up, the debt ended up going to what I believe was the hospital's internal collection department. Those people broke the law consistently and blatantly. They'd call me AND my family members at all hours, screaming, calling us names, making violent threats and obvious references to private medical information. They were even forging contracts really obviously, sending out letters for people to sign and return to them with a couple paragraph sized blank space in the middle, then illegally garnishing their wages. (I did end up locating an investigator who was working on a case against this company, gave him some copies of my notes and such, and helped him fill in some of the blanks, including that fake contract.)

I figure that people who owe large medical debts tend to be fairly vulnerable, and unlikely to either know the law or trust authority enough to report what's happening to them, so debt collectors are fairly comfortable violating the law when they go after them. And companies buying unrecoverable debts are almost always going to be shady, because they're depending on people not understanding their legal rights.

I'm sure things aren't often as bad as what I experienced, but I've gotten calls from debt collectors calling from identifiable numbers just "trying to locate" my neighbors and calls asking some wrong number person to call about a debt. So it's still happening.

What happens to them? Where do I report that, and who does something about it? I mean, it hardly matters if something is illegal if there's nobody enforcing the laws, or if you can just write off fines or something as a business expense. According to this, the largest fine for violating the FDCPA as of 2013 is $3.2 million, and that's pretty much shit.

They need to actually be held accountable. The criminal debt collectors AND the organizations responsible for turning over people's private information to criminals.

And, of course, these debts shouldn't exist in the first place. That's the main problem.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:02 PM on June 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


I posted this idea once before, years ago, but I think that any time a debt is sold, the debtor should be offered right of first refusal to buy it at the offered cost.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:24 PM on June 6, 2016 [67 favorites]


That is *such* a good idea, sevenyearlurk.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 5:35 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


John Oliver is the best thing to happen to America since [whatever the popular and universally-correct and accepted consensus about the best thing to happen to America previously was].
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:54 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Take it to Kickstarter. Maybe ask the resident hive-mind for ideas. If you got enough attention, you could probably get Oliver and/or his show to contribute in some way.

You'd still probably be collecting debt because it would take some bureaucracy to run, even as a non-profit, but it could probably be pretty cheap and you could make sure pricing is fair somehow. I suppose if it's a non-profit donors could help fund it too.

The only major problem is that if it gets too big, you'll start to affect the price and drive it up.
posted by VTX at 5:56 PM on June 6, 2016


That's a great idea, but I'm thinking about what would happen if it worked that way. So obviously anyone who had the money to pay would be willing to pay more than a debt-buyer, so the way to make this different from negotiating a debt reduction it would have to be that whatever the highest offer ended up being, the debtor could buy it at that price.

So now picture a debt package with only 6 debts for simplicity each debt is $1000, but the collection agency is likely to be able to collect different amounts from each:

Debt 1: $1000, expected collection 0
Debt 2: $1000 expected collection 0
Debt 3: $1000 expected collection $100 (interpretable as either they'll get $100 or a 10% chance they'll get the full amount or many combinations in between (e.g. 20% chance they get $500)
Debt 4: $1000 Expected collection: $50
Debt 5: $1000 Expected collection $600

So the total expected collection is $750. Figure the debt collection bids $300 on the package which is 5 cents on the dollar. Debtors 3, and 5 can apparently afford to pay this, so they do. Debtor 4 actually works out the same either way so maybe they do maybe they don't. BUT since the buyer knows that given the debtor's right of firsts refusal, they're likely to only get $0 or $50 if they buy this, they'd be nuts to bid $300. So maybe they bid $25, but then at the price, buyers 3, 4, and 5 would all buy their own debt instead. The buyer would be left with the debtors who won't pay anything. So they're not going to bid.

I mean I guess this is actually a better outcome than what we have now. Sure, nobody would be able to buy their own debt by this first refusal method because debt guying would cease to be profitable and disappear (which of course is why no politician would ever pass this law). And that would be a win. But it wouldn't be the fabulous win where people get the chance to buy their debt.

This is just speculating off the top of my head. I'm not a banker, MBA, or economist. If someone wants to tell me I've missed something or misinterpreted something, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:00 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


It shouldn't be too hard to turn into a security. Then you don't need to auction off any particular package to know the price, you have an active market for standardized packages so the last step before putting a consumer debt backed security for sale on the market is to get a yes/no from the debtor on their debt at the going market rate. I mean, you'd have to have a solid regulatory structure in place but it's possible.
posted by VTX at 6:18 PM on June 6, 2016


RE: LWT distancing themselves from Rolling Jubilee because of Occupy roots.

I hope we get a clear answer about this. Not every TV personality is perfect but John Oliver is one that comes pretty damn close to my ideals with all the things he's talked about, so I hope this is something that is tied up with HBO's bureaucracy and its affiliates.
posted by numaner at 6:18 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


from FanFare by wenestvedt: The Rolling Jubilee web site only lists debt buys in like 2013 and 2014, and the blog was last updated in late 2015. Have they suspended their work, or only their site updates? Because I love what they're doing, and want them to keep doing it.

Yeah I was really ready to donate, and then I checked their transparency page just to see what kind of debt they've been buying and noticed the same. I don't see any other updates from StrikeDebt, and their twitter is right not only about LWT distancing from them. I hope they're still doing this.
posted by numaner at 6:21 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Then you don't need to auction off any particular package to know the price, you have an active market for standardized packages so the last step before putting a consumer debt backed security for sale on the market is to get a yes/no from the debtor on their debt at the going market rate.

Yes, but my point is that the going market rate is going to be affected by the debt buyer's knowledge that a certain number of debtors (precisely those most likely to pay) are going to buy out their own debt's and the security will be left only with those debtors who really aren't going to pay. Knowing that no matter who is in the security they originally bid on, they're only going to be left with the non-payers, why would they bid at all? There would be no market price because there would be no market.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:26 PM on June 6, 2016


Yeah, so in case it was unclear, my original hypothetical example was intended exactly as a package like a security.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:28 PM on June 6, 2016


John Oliver has turned out to be John Stewart's replacement. Poor Noah needs to go back to standup.

This is so unnecessary. It's entirely possible to praise John Oliver without also taking a dump on Trevor Noah. Why is there such a persistent need to put him down every time something tangential to TDS comes up?

Personally I think Trevor Noah is doing just fine. He's been having a ton of great nights where he's on fire.
I'm glad there's a whole line-up of these types of comedians out there doing what they're doing including in no particular order Samantha Bee, Larry Wilmore, John Oliver and, of course, Trevor Noah. The more, the better.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:37 PM on June 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


Yeah okay, I see your point now.

So maybe there is a scheme in the middle where it's all or nothing. Packages could get randomized by a neutral 3rd party or regulatory oversight ensures that they're fair or something. Then all the debtors in that package can buy the whole thing but they have to buy the whole thing or it goes to the next highest bidder. So the more of the debtors that contribute, the lower the cost to each.

There are other issues and weird incentives that way but there's probably a workable scheme in there somewhere.
posted by VTX at 6:46 PM on June 6, 2016


I agree that John Oliver, and not Trevor Noah, has taken over the cultural spot as Jon Stewart's replacement. I also think Oliver on his best day is merely a poor man's Stewart. Apart from Oliver's compulsive need to repeat every joke twice ("It's like if..."—yes, that's the same joke told a different way, we got the humor the first time), I'm not a fan of the way he presents other journalists' reporting as if his show deserves credit for breaking the story.

The only major problem is that if it gets too big, you'll start to affect the price and drive it up.

Fifteen years ago, buying a portfolio of charged-off debt was a decent way to make some money. That has changed drastically, and is continuing to change as we speak. In September the country's two largest debt buyers agreed to stop reselling debt. While those companies' agreement doesn't technically bind any other companies, it was the result of significant pressure from the CFPB and the industry has taken note. It is, or will be, the new reality. You aren't going to see long chains of assignments for much longer. The model is now going to be, CREDITOR —> DEBT BUYER, full stop.

As a related consequence—and in part, the reason why the industry had already begun coalescing into two largest debt buyers—it's no longer easy to buy a portfolio of (legitimate) charged-off debt. Fifteen years ago, you just had to buy the debt. Now you have to invest huge sums of money into establishing compliance with, in addition to state and federal regulations, policies and work standards that are mandated by the creditors. Someone upthread pointed out the risk of identity theft, which is just one reason for this. Nowadays, buying a portfolio of charged-off debt is becoming like opening a law school: anybody can do it, but if you want to do it legitimately and on a scale where you make any kind of profit, then you need major start-up capital. You also need to demonstrate ongoing compliance.

It's going to be a very different industry in another ten years. A lot of companies that exist today, won't in 2026. And honestly, we may reach the point where major banks just stop selling debt altogether. One major bank has effectively done that, although they haven't announced it as an official policy. The return is arguably not worth the liabilities.

And, of course, these debts shouldn't exist in the first place. That's the main problem.

The question is, if banks stop selling or collecting charged-off debt, how does that change the rest of the ecosystem? Everything is interconnected. It's exactly like the debate about student loans and bankruptcy: sure, you can change the laws, but then lenders' behavior will change to suit. Like with most complex problems, simple "solutions" tend to just shift the difficulties up- or downstream.
posted by cribcage at 8:05 PM on June 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one who appreciates the sheer brilliance of a British person who grew up with the National Health Service coming over here and saving thousands of debt-ridden people from the absurdly immoral for-profit US health insurance system for pennies on the dollar?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


Right of first refusal was exactly what I paused the show to ask my husband about: has no one introduced legislation to require original creditors to notify debtors that their debt will be sold in X days, and offer the creditors the same price? Spouse suggested potential moral hazard issues, but I think another aspect of it would balance things out: increasing the administrative cost of selling off debt, thereby either delaying or forestalling its sale.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:23 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't help but think of the ending of Fight Club. (The movie, at least. I've read the book but at the moment can't recall if this part of the ending is a difference between the two.) The big plan was to blow up the credit reporting agencies, to erase the entire debt record. Setting said whether or not simply blowing up the agency administration buildings would actually do that (or instead assume the inevitable offsite data backups were part of the destruction too somehow).... It's always been one of the things I love most about that movie that, regardless of what happens with Jack/Tyler, the buildings blow up anyway. Seems to me a typical Hollywood movie like this would chicken out at exactly that point.

But, so, what would happen if the whole debt record of the country actually could be reset to zero? Clearly the massive banks are doing OK without being able to actually collect it all, and many/most who owe it are suffering from not being able to pay. The only people I can imagine complaining over massive debt forgiveness like this are the Finance Industry, and it's long been established that they contribute nothing to the actual common good, they just move money around for their own gain. Seriously, anything that makes them complain makes me happy.

Anyway. I like that this has given attention to this issue. It would be great to see even more debt-forgiveness activist groups form to take this on and drive the money predators out of business.
posted by dnash at 8:25 PM on June 6, 2016


Rolling Jubilee pointed out, quite a while ago, that if you're known to be writing off debts, debt collectors won't sell to you.

It's hard to find detailed links on this (I remember reading some when RJ was getting started, but I can't find them now), but they confirmed that the debt industry is very much focused on the proliferation of debt and the related misery--NOT about making money or getting those debts paid off. John Oliver can do this once; he won't be able to keep doing it because large debt companies will flat-out refuse to sell to a company known to discharge instead of pursue the debts.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:29 PM on June 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


If a right of first refusal collapses the debt resale market, that is a feature, not a bug.
posted by stevis23 at 8:37 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


has no one introduced legislation to require original creditors to notify debtors that their debt will be sold in X days, and offer the creditors the same price?

What you're proposing ("the same price") doesn't exist. Debts aren't sold individually. They are sold in large bundles, or portfolios. Large amounts are packaged with small amounts, longer-term accounts are packaged with shorter-term accounts, etc. People have discussed this above: the point is, good debts are sold bundled with bad ones. It's the same principle whereby Netflix gets a couple good movies every month along with thirty bad movies. It is the only way to get anybody (Netflix / debt buyers) to pay for the bad ones.

Creditors can't offer individual prices on accounts because they don't do individual pricing. It would be labor intensive far beyond the point of non-profitability.
posted by cribcage at 8:40 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


. When our bankruptcy was finalized in 2014, we received tax forms from all of the major companies we listed. We had to pay taxes of those forgiven debts.

https://www.bklaw.com/bankruptcy-blog/2011/04/forgiven-debts-effect-on-taxes/
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:50 PM on June 6, 2016


what would happen if the whole debt record of the country actually could be reset to zero

one man's debt is another man's savings . . .

But per Piketty, I think overall your scenario would be a net positive to the economy, since the wealthy are parasitical to the same extent the job-shirkers are.

In fact, the wealthy -- living off of investment income-- are job-shirkers. too.

that's what capitalism really is, the institutionalization of making money from money as opposed to labor, or the ownership of land.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 9:17 PM on June 6, 2016


Decades ago, I was billed by a major public hospital for some debts I didn't owe, and despite repeatedly clearing it up...

It's amazing to me what poor billing practices occur by big medical institutions. You'd think with so much money at stake, they'd have better systems.

My story is nowhere near as bad as this, but when I was about 9 months pregnant, my hospital called and said that they estimated my liability for the delivery would be $6k and that they wanted me to pay half now. I pushed back, saying I'd rather receive service and then be billed for something, or at least actually be billed on paper first. They said something like "we'd hate for you to be held up by this when you arrive at the hospital in labor," and with that prospect in mind, I pulled out a credit card. The woman wasn't even going to send me a receipt; ultimately, I talked her into it at least sending me a screenshot of her computer interface!

Six weeks or so after the birth, we pull out of our parents-of-a-newborn haze enough to realize we haven't seen the invoice for the $6k with $3k applied. We called the number in the screenshot, and it's been disconnected! At this point we start to assume we were victims of a scam. But we called the hospital using a number we found online, and they confirmed that we did pay them, and that there was actually a credit on the account, as the actual amount we owed was not $6000 but $270. I guess they hadn't planned to ever tell us. But even then, they said it'd take them three weeks to issue a refund, and we'd been paying interest on that $3k (like idiots, but in our defense, labor started) for almost two months. So, after some back and forth with the hospital, we ultimately just decided to tell the credit card company we disputed the charges.

That's example one. Example two: Kaiser (different from the hospital in the story above) sent me to collections for $60 I didn't know I owed. Usually at Kaiser, I was charged a copay on the spot, but for this one procedure, the policy was to bill later. When a collections company called, I immediately called Kaiser to pay, but they'd sold it, they said. It turns out they'd been sending bills to a long-former residence for months. "It's your responsibility to keep us informed of your current address," they scolded me. But I had! Whenever you call Kaiser, they ask for your latest contact info. Tons of Kaiser mail reached my new address. But no, they insisted it was my responsibility to keep their billing department apprised of my current address. Lord only knows what other departments I should also have been independently updating. But really, if any database project would pay for itself, it would be the project that made sure Kaiser's billing department had access to everyone's addresses and phone numbers.

I left both those experiences feeling surprised at how archaic medical institutions' billing and collections practices seemed to be.
posted by slidell at 9:19 PM on June 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


... And it looks like I'm not the only one who has been sent to collections over a bill I wasn't aware of. Some press coverage of the Rolling Jubilee shows that several of the "debtors" weren't even aware the debt hadn't been covered by insurance.
posted by slidell at 9:35 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Now you have to invest huge sums of money into establishing compliance with, in addition to state and federal regulations, policies and work standards that are mandated by the creditors.

I make a note. I did not know there was anyone out there who believed that who wasn't getting paid to.

Creditors can't offer individual prices on accounts because they don't do individual pricing. It would be labor intensive far beyond the point of non-profitability.

What you've just described is not actually labor-intensivity. In fact, the banks could model value using loan-level data. It's a question of not wanting to let more collectible-debt be cherry-picked out, which, as you say, makes the remaining debt harder to sell ("the only way to get anybody...to pay for the bad ones"). An argument from feasibility may have some weight, but an argument that the banks need to be shielded from the consequences of their own poor management of risk does not.
posted by praemunire at 10:58 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't help but think of the ending of Fight Club. ... The big plan was to blow up the credit reporting agencies, to erase the entire debt record.

Also (spoiler) the finale of Season 1 of Mr. Robot.


But, so, what would happen if the whole debt record of the country actually could be reset to zero?

The show's creator has stated that this is the EXACT premise of season 2 of Mr. Robot. Starts July 13th!
posted by LEGO Damashii at 11:34 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree that John Oliver, and not Trevor Noah, has taken over the cultural spot as Jon Stewart's replacement. I also think Oliver on his best day is merely a poor man's Stewart.

Our tastes differ - I think that on his best day Jon Stewart aspired to be what John Oliver is in a not especially good week. Someone who does investigative stoneturning about a range of real issues and lays out things in detail that The Daily Show would never attempt. Part of that, of course, is that Last Week Tonight has a week between episodes while TDS was daily. But another part of that is how pointed at Washington and the media TDS is rather than looking everywhere. TDS was entertainment first - I go to LWT to be genuinely informed (and there are only so many ways of saying "Fox News is a joke of a news company" that TDS seems to specialise in)

As for Oliver repeating jokes, Stewart raising an eyebrow at the camera was no less annoying.
posted by Francis at 2:22 AM on June 7, 2016


On the subject of hospital billing: my mom has a somewhat rare auto-immune disease that has an established and non-controversial method of treatment: she needs an infusion once a month. The problem is that the medicine she needs is really expensive. Over the last 5 years, her insurance company has decided to drop coverage for her treatment 8 times, because they've "lost" the documents from her doctors that prove she needs the medicine. They have mailed her checks twice for $10,000 that were meant for the infusion company and when she mailed those checks back to her insurance, they claimed that they never got the checks, so my mom was supposedly on the hook for the $10,000.

Luckily my mom is old-fashioned and keeps copies (paper copies when necessary) and receipts of everything, so every time they "lose" her stuff, she gathers it all together again and re-submits it. Every time, she has to spend hours on the phone, and every time she has to deal with the stress and worry that she's not going to be able to keep getting the one medicine that helps her feel better. Every time the insurance company has eventually bowed and agreed to keep covering my mom's treatment. But it just feels abusive at this point. It's hard watching my mom have to worry and spend so much time on this thing because the insurance company is so full of assholes.
posted by colfax at 3:24 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


In related news, Mr. Oliver has officially left The Bugle. Oh no, that's awful. Still, LWT probably takes a ton of time. Any word on what the podcast's going to do without him?

They're restarting weekly episodes in the fall with Andy Zaltzman and some rotating guest hosts. They posted a 20 minute final episode a few days ago with John and Andy to announce it.
posted by lullaby at 3:40 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


But, so, what would happen if the whole debt record of the country actually could be reset to zero?

Every bank would collapse.

On US Bank's 2015 annual report, they had a total of $422 billion in assets. Of that, $126 billion is consumer. On the liabilities and equity side, they have $375 billion in liabilities and the rest is equity. If you suddenly remove $126 billion in assets, that wipes out all the equity and bank is now bankrupt without a HUGE injection of new equity. Everyone with less than $250k in the bank will get their money back from the FDIC as long as it's just this one bank but you're talking about every bank. The FDIC is insurance and is funded based like insurance, they can't afford to pay claims to every depositor so you're diverting a huge chunk of the federal budget to FDIC claims too.

And we're not talking about investment banks like in 2008, these are the consumer banks that everyday people use, not just hedge fund managers and the uber-wealthy. It would absolutely destroy the economy and would probably take the government with it.

Consumer debt is a symptom of income inequality, not the problem itself.
posted by VTX at 5:38 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Every time the insurance company has eventually bowed and agreed to keep covering my mom's treatment. But it just feels abusive at this point. It's hard watching my mom have to worry and spend so much time on this thing because the insurance company is so full of assholes.

This is why when I lived in the US, I was always so enraged to see insurance companies advertising about how great and accessible their customer service reps are: If someone is calling their insurance company, the insurance company has done something wrong. There's no other reason to call your health insurer. If you want me to be impressed run an ad that says "We laid off all our CSRs because we get two phone calls a week and one is always a wrong number."

Also, stop sending me mail. I'm not interested in your insurance company crap (I admit, my insurance company actually honoured that one when I asked them to, after calling them because they did something wrong).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:03 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


What you've just described is not actually labor-intensivity.

Your description presumes the process is being built from scratch and in a vacuum. To the contrary, this is something an already existing corporate structure—Citibank, for example—would actually need to implement. This is a good example of what I mentioned earlier: simple "solutions" tend not to be solutions. Proposing that a perfect system by built from magic blocks a la Minecraft might be a fun intellectual exercise but it bears no relationship to reality.

Consumer debt is a symptom of income inequality, not the problem itself.

Precisely. And I would add, in our currently existing system—where creditors refuse to negotiate on minimum payments and are required to charge-off debt after a certain period—debt buyers are positioned to perform a valuable service. If you want your credit ruined by a charged-off debt and an unsatisfied judgment, that's your prerogative. But debt buyers have the ability to negotiate: they can accept reduced sums, they can accept reasonable payment plans, they can vacate judgments.

The only thing those debt buyers care about is return on investment. If you work with them to resolve your debt, it can be win/win. People upthread have related various anecdotes about red tape and the difficulty of getting past the untrained front-line call-center employees, and that's a legitimate gripe (albeit one relevant to nearly every industry right now)—but in terms of the system's current structure, the relationship between debt buyers and debtors can be very productive.
posted by cribcage at 8:01 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


the relationship between debt buyers and debtors can be very productive.

I have a story where this was the case. When I moved from the US to Canada, I closed my US accounts and gave my credit card company my new address so they could send the last statement. So I get the last statement (in Canada) and send them a cheque, with some extra padded on for any potential miscalculation of the exchange rate or fees. They mail me my cheque back. They can't take CAD.

So I got a money order in USD and mailed it to them. They mailed it back to me. They can't take a money order drawn on a Canadian bank. Seriously I would think a BANK would know how to handle money, but apparently not.

So some months go back in this stalemate. I think I made an other attempt to pay, but I don't remember how. Then I hear nothing for a while, until one day a debt collector calls me. So I exasperatedly explain that I've been TRYING to pay them and I'd be happy to pay if they would just take my money. I think the guy, who probably worked on commission, must have felt like he just won the lottery. One phone call and he was going to get almost* the whole value of the debt. He was happy to take money in any form I offered it. So I paid and the debt collector surely got much more than they typically get and for far less work (i.e. harassment) on their part.

Win-win...except now reading this I have doubts about to what extent I morally owed the money at that point. I mean obviously I legally owed it, but how is this debt collector entitled to make $XXX for something they paid $X for?

* I refused to pay interest or fees that resultled from the bank's unwillingness to accept my various attempts at payment.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:41 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


RE: LWT distancing themselves from Rolling Jubilee because of Occupy roots.

I hope we get a clear answer about this. Not every TV personality is perfect but John Oliver is one that comes pretty damn close to my ideals with all the things he's talked about, so I hope this is something that is tied up with HBO's bureaucracy and its affiliates.
When I was watching the episode I was waiting for the mention of the rolling jubilee effort and was confused when it never came, until I went to facebook. I have a habit of not defriending people who say shitty things on facebook, if only because not looking at them doesn't actually make them go away, and I saw the strangest people sharing this episode. Including the libertarian my ex sort of knew once six years ago who thinks the Civil Rights act is an unjust imposition on the liberty of restaurateurs and pool owners shared it saying "I like this guy," along with the dude who flaked out on a class project I did with him 5 years ago who recently called for the lynching of trans women who want to pee, and my old landlord/housemate who is sweet in his own way but votes Republican and has some interesting ideas about bell curves. Oliver is doing something much more powerful and genuinely revolutionary than Occupy ever did, working to drag our whole country towards justice rather than just a loud angry choir that doesn't bother to vote at especially impressive rates. He was right to leave the Jubilee out, he couldn't plausibly actually help it out of what appears to be a fatal paralysis and it could only hurt the impact of his message.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:42 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


If only I had a penguin, I had a similar experience. I moved out of the US years ago, but kept a few US credit cards active for convenience. One was sold to a new company - went from being an Amex to a (Barklay's?) MasterCard. I still don't know how that is okay. Apparently I was notified, but that notification did not get to me because the new owner did not support international mailing addresses. I didn't carry a balance, but I did have a few small monthly purchases on that card which carried over to the new owner.

I figured this all out when I tried to log in to Amex to pay my bill, and they said I don't have an account. Tracked down what happened, and tried to call MasterCard, but they wouldn't talk to me unless I verified my five digit billing zip code, which of course I do not have. When I finally got them to talk to me, there was no way to pay, because they don't accept international payments. Well then why did you take over an account with an international address?

This all took so long to sort out that they had started adding late fees, which they claimed could not be waived. I was this close to telling the agent that I don't ever intend to live in the US again so there were no consequences at all for me to just walk away. I was even closer to not saying that at all, quietly maxing out the credit line with the company I never agreed to have a contract with in the first place, and never talking to them again. But ultimately, I do want to be honest and honorable, and I wanted to pay my debt (minus the fees).

Finally I had my brother pay them, and I transferred him the money.
posted by Nothing at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


As an early donator to Rolling Jubilee I think leaving out mention of RJ was kinda shitty, and disagree it was the right thing to do. Bragging rights about thinking up the idea themselves, whatever, who cares compared to the real issues. But the communications work RJ did is out there to be found by people who get interested in this stuff because they saw it on a tv show, and not mentioning 'prior art' means those people are less likely to find it if they go looking.

I'm not sure I buy the OWS connection as an underlying cause of the omission. It's not like they had to identify where RJ came from to say this has been done before. It could have been just a one line acknowledgement, though that certainly leads to asking why it doesn't happen more.

I suspect the reason none of the RJ people actually got face time, based on that facebook post about it, is that the Oliver people declined to let RJ hijack their entertainment show into a more sprawling screed that went beyond debt collection. I tend to agree with them, mind, but they sure give you the sense that they're going to talk about the issues they want to in the manner they want to, period.

But they still should have been acknowledged.
posted by phearlez at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


LWT did mention RIP Medical Debt on air: here's their statement about it.

If you want to do this kind of work, your best bet is to donate to active orgs like RIP Medical Debt since they already have the structure and knowhow to do so.
posted by divabat at 4:57 PM on June 7, 2016


Colfax, your story reminds me of this Vox article - Unpaid, stressed, and confused: patients are the health care system's free labor.
"I'm not talking about the work of managing one's health, the work that diabetics do to monitor their blood sugar or the healthy eating choices a doctor might recommend for an overweight patient. This can be a significant burden in its own right.

What I didn't understand was the burden patients face in managing the health care system: a massive web of doctors, insurers, pharmacies, and other siloed actors that seem intent on not talking with one another. That unenviable task gets left to the patient, the secret glue that holds the system together.

For me, this feels like a part-time job where the pay is lousy, the hours inconvenient, and the stakes incredibly high. It's up to me to ferry medical records between different providers, to track down a pharmacy that can fill my prescription, and to talk to my insurance when a treatment gets denied to find out why."
posted by cynical pinnacle at 5:34 PM on June 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


how is this debt collector entitled to make $XXX for something they paid $X for?

Because you were willing him to pay him that much, just like every other transaction in a free market. The cost of a thing has almost nothing to do with it's price.
posted by VTX at 5:44 AM on June 8, 2016


Right, I was wondering about of the value, nor the cost, nor the price, but the moral merit. So my willingness to pay him does not confer or create moral merit.

I would say that the bank that lent me the money via a credit card "deserved" to get it's money back. I used money that belonged to them and so I should return that money to its rightful owner. But why what moral (not legal or economic reasoning) do I owe money to the debt buyer (if it was a debt buyer not debt collector)? What have they provided me with that I should pay for? Since the money I pay them doesn't go to the bank to whom I owed the money, the service the bank provided for me doesn't seem relevant here -- I'm not paying the bank for its service if the money never goes to the bank.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:01 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Like if I had no legal obligation to pay them, would paying them be the right thing to do? For the bank I originally owed the money to, I would say yes. For the debt buyer, I'm not so sure.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:18 AM on June 8, 2016


how is this debt collector entitled to make $XXX for something they paid $X for?

Because you were willing him to pay him that much, just like every other transaction in a free market.


It is not a free market. It is a market that is defined by government debt law. There is no reason that debt that has been resold like this should necessarily have any value at all.
posted by JackFlash at 6:38 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Man, RIPMedicalDebt is only at 10% of their goal right now for their next campaign. I hope everyone's spreading the word and help them get more donations!
posted by numaner at 7:49 AM on June 8, 2016


LWT did mention RIP Medical Debt on air

RIPMD is a specialized operation focused on exclusively medical debt, though, and while they came out of association with RJ they've got a more specific focus. And as I said, I think it's fine that the LWT's focus is on one area and they they didn't want to let RJ hijack their narrative.

BUT, debt resale and zombie debt isn't limited to medical debt by a long shot. I'm kind of uncomfortable with a laser focus on medical debt as if that's the only place where the constant efforts on continued collection is unjust. When it's done in an entertainment production from a huge multinational like HBO/TBS/Time-Warner/CNN/andsoon it feels like an effort to slice up the pie into the good and bad debtors who deserve forgiveness or don't.

That's why I'd have liked to have seen at least some mention of RJ, with their more generic approach to saying that it's not okay to hound people for decades with debt that is past statute. In almost every state, statute of limitations is an affirmative defense only useful when you're being sued. If you bring it up with debt collectors it can mean that they just turn around and sell your debt to another bunch of assholes. As I recall, unless it's changed since I was focused on this a decade ago, you can count on one hand where SoL debts are legally obligated to be discharged and further collections efforts forbidden. And ALL of that depends on knowledgeable debtors, who 99.9% of the time are going to be the victims of an information imbalance.

So, good on LWT for this and bringing attention to the matter. But when you want to go on about all the cool things that Cortez found when he discovered the new world it's fair someone clears their throat at you.
posted by phearlez at 8:17 AM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


That doesn't matter, market forces still determine the price. The collector is going to buy debt to maximize his earnings which are governed by his marginal costs and they'll buy debt debt until they reach the point of their lowest marginal cost. Basically as much as they have time to try to collect on.

The debtor then has to attempt to negotiate the price based on the other options (the charge-off remains unpaid on the credit report, the agency will keep calling, etc.). If the price is too high, the debtor takes the other option (do nothing).

The debt collection has incentive to lower the price because time spent talking to this person is time they could be talking to someone else.

I mean, there are certainly constraints on the supply and demand in play since it's basically a monopoly but that doesn't stop the laws of supply and demand, just changes what and to what degree the variables affect them. It also doesn't mean that it's not a shitty situation in need of reform but the basic question "why do they make so much profit on X" is "because they can".
posted by VTX at 9:37 AM on June 8, 2016


Rolling Jubilee was listed in the show's credits, but if you blinked at the wrong moment, you missed it.
posted by asperity at 10:13 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is no reason that debt that has been resold like this should necessarily have any value at all.

That's an odd formulation for criticizing whether the market is regulated or free. It's a fairly simple principle that exists in just about every market system. You owe me a pig. This means I own the right to collect one pig from you. That is a property right, which I can sell to James. Now you owe James a pig. That's all it is. It's not as if the US government came along and created some debt-assignment model at the behest of the banking lobby.

VTX was right: free market dynamics are indeed why the debt collector was entitled to collect $XXX, except it would be more accurate to throw out or at least adjust the verb "entitled." The market entitles him to demand $XXX. You can pay it, or you can offer $XX, or you can offer $X, or you can hang up. There are benefits and consequences for you paying $XXX, just as there are benefits and consequences for him accepting $X. As the Lord said, go forth and haggle.
posted by cribcage at 4:58 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


You're wanting to change the word entitled to ask the legal question. My whole point is that I'm not interested in the legal question. I think it's pretty clear that legally the debt buyer has the property right to collect that money. My wondering was about whether I have a moral obligation to pay a debt buyer. If there were no legal requirement, then would it somehow still be morally incumbent upon me (or any debtor) to pay a debt buyer? Like I said, I see the moral argument for paying a creditor, but it's hard to come up with a moral (not legal) reason why paying the debt buyer is the right thing to do.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:26 PM on June 8, 2016


Why? You received the goods and/or services, on the agreement that you would pay a certain amount. Why does shifting that receivable from one entity to another, within the rules and confines of the market where you opted to transact business, relieve you of any moral burden?
posted by cribcage at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2016


Because I received nothing from the debt buyer. So I don't see how I developed any moral burden to them in the first place.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:08 PM on June 8, 2016


Then respectfully, you are failing to understand the principle. You didn't "develop" a moral burden to the debt buyer. Your moral burden was never limited to the original creditor in the first place. In fact, to the extent you had any moral burden, arguably it wasn't to any singular entity but rather to the market and to society: because when you bail on your obligations, you shift those costs onto the rest of us.
posted by cribcage at 6:12 PM on June 8, 2016


Also, if a random debt buyer can claim the money owed to someone else without your having had a say in the transfer, it opens the door to other people claiming that they bought the debt without actually having done so.

Further, as we've seen in the other thread, increasingly the fees charged by people are less for goods and services, but are bullshit, technically legal, contractual opportunity fees, like "convenience charges," and high prices due to monopolistic effects, consumer lock-in and the like, things of increasingly dubious morality themselves. Why should the cultural disapproval over not being able to pay inflated bullshit charges be aimed solely at the consumer, especially if he had no choice but to pay it for a service, like a cell phone plan, that increasingly you need just to have a normal life these days?
posted by JHarris at 6:20 PM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I had been trying to think (as part of my wondering) if there are larger societal costs to not paying a debt buyer and I couldn't think of any. You say it "shifts the cost to everyone else" but I don't see how it does. Does the the debt buyer get its money from the public purse if I don't pay it? I'm pretty sure the only loser when someone doesn't pay the debt buyer is the debt buyer.

Why was my moral burden never limited to the creditor? They're the only one who provided me with anything. How, at the moment I used my credit card, presumably, incur a moral obligation to the debt buyer?

The market seems like an odd thing to have an obligation to, since the market is just a collective statement of facts about how much people are willing to pay for something or take for that something. A person saying I will pay nothing, is as much a part of the market as a person saying they will pay a million dollars. The market isn't harmed by what people are willing to pay, though some categories of buyers or sellers might be. But for every category of buyer or seller harmed, there's another corresponding category that benefits, I would think. I'm a little fuzzier on this last point. (i.e. I've made the argument to try to work it out in my head, but I'm not 100% convinced I believe it).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:33 PM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's not as if the US government came along and created some debt-assignment model at the behest of the banking lobby.

Surely you can't say this with a straight face. The entire debt and bankruptcy code is written by Wall Street lobbyists. Heck, the last major revision was just recently in 2005 during the Bush administration which was highly detrimental to consumers.

How debt can be reassigned, priority for debt, dischargability of debt, collaterized and non-collaterized debt, tax deductions for debt, forgiveness of debt, statues of limitation, eligibility for bankruptcy, liens, homestead exemptions and on and on all written by banking lobbyists.
posted by JackFlash at 8:08 PM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


David Graeber released his book, Debt: The First Five Thousand Years free online. Among the concepts it covers is that there is no evidence that money and credit "evolved" from barter, and that debt is created by governments to control commerce.

His work has been challenged by other economists and anthropologists, but it's worth looking into--its perspective shows that massive consumer debt that punishes huge sections of the populace is not a bug but a feature - status quo for some kinds of economies.
This is a great trap of the twentieth century : on one side is the logic of the market, where we like to imagine we all start out as individuals who don't owe each other anything. On the other is the logic of the state, where we all begin with a debt we can never truly pay. We are constantly told that they are opposites, and that between them they contain the only real human possibilities. But it's a false dichotomy. States created markets. Markets require states. Neither could continue without the other, at least, in anything like the forms we would recognize today.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:17 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


@If'a Penguin, I think the moral case would run like this:
1a) The original lender has a moral right to their $XXX back as agreed.
1b) Lender also has a moral right to recoup $X easily from a debt that's unlikely to repay.
2) To allow the sale to be worth $X when the debt only pays anything at all 10% of the time, in that 10% it has to pay $XXX ($X won't support the thing).
3) So if you 'should' fall in the repaying 10% (it's like how those other people don't give to public radio so you should), then you are morally obliged to repay the whole $XXX to the debt-buyer. Not as a moral obligation to them, but a moral obligation to the original lender for their $X, which you uphold by following the legal obligation to the debt-buyer.

@cribcage, is that anything like your position?

My thing with this argument is that it needs a fix to stop double-counting obligations. The lender can't have moral rights to both (1b) partial repayment of bad debts, and (1a) full repayment of all debts. To balance the books, the (1a) obligation has to be cut down to "full repayment of debts from, like, most people, most of the time."

So if you're willing to uphold (1b) by paying debt-buyers what you can, then you don't have to feel strictly obliged to pay back the original lender all the time. In your individual case this says you wouldn't feel guilty that the bank got only $X. If you paid a levy on the blank tapes, you don't feel guilty for copying music onto them. (Do you feel guilty about the bank?)

It skates uneasily close to tautological. You should pay back as much as you are statistically expected to, to support the system's ability to operate with a given interest rate and pricing of debt resale. Unless of course the bank offered too low an interest rate for your actual level of repayment risk, in which case they should lose as the market dictates. All parties should make transactions where one's supply curve intersects the other's demand curve. Okay then!

There is some actual meat to the borrower's moral obligation in this framework: (i) don't lie about your ability to repay, and (ii) don't change your willingness to repay based on who's holding your debt. The first commandment is not for debt resale specifically, it's just for how interest rates work at all in the absence of a straight-up "pay your debts, 100%" commandment. The second commandment is for enabling debt resale.

So here's what it comes down to: the moral force of the second commandment comes if you buy that the bank has a moral right to the option to step out of the job of collecting on difficult debts but still extract some of their value. That option clearly has some economic value. You can say they have a legal right to hold the option, assuming that's the state of the loan agreement and legal framework. Does the lender have an inherent moral right to the option, such that a lender can't write a loan contract signing that away? Nah. Does the lender have a moral right to maintain a world where it's effectively impossible for a borrower to get a loan deal that doesn't assign this option to the lender?

Well what are the facts in our current world, can a person actually cut a deal to pay (x+y)% interest to get a loan that can't be farmed out, instead of an offered x% interest on a farmable loan? Subject to correction, I would guess either loan contract would be valid within our legal system, but practically speaking the non-farmable loan is not a product on offer, although I could get it bespoke if I were a big fish.

And what is the moral status of that?
posted by away for regrooving at 2:12 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bringing morality into this discussion is just confusing the issue. There is no morality involved. There is no moral obligation to pay debt. It's just business.

Banks and other businesses default on debt routinely as a business stategy with no concern about moral obligation. Consumers have no moral obligation either. The idea that only consumers have a moral obligation to debt is just a myth that bankers are delighted to see people propagate.
posted by JackFlash at 6:31 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


it opens the door to other people claiming that they bought the debt without actually having done so.

I don't think permitting assignment of debt—which, again, is a concept as old as bartering itself—opens the door to scams. I think scams are scams are scams, and they happen irrespective of almost anything. Years ago, a guy did an experiment where he bought a book of blank invoices and just mailed random claims to companies. About half of them paid. The difference between scamming and theft is lack of reliance on already open doors. Scammers will knock.

Why was my moral burden never limited to the creditor?

Maybe let's try it from two alternate angles. You appear to feel that your moral burden to pay debt is somehow individualized. Does that work in reverse? You pay $500 to Acme Company for a widget to be delivered next month. The next day, you die. Does Acme Company need to return the $500 or deliver the widget? Or, if its moral burden was solely to you, then can the company pocket your check and tell your heirs they're out of luck?

Alternately: You owe $500 to James. James assigns your debt to Bill. Since you believe you don't owe a moral burden to Bill, does that mean you feel that you still owe a moral burden to pay $500 to James? Because it seems like you're arguing the assignment relieves you of any moral burden whatsoever. That sure sounds convenient, but I'm not sure how it's moral.

There is no morality involved.

That's a valid perspective. But I think IOIHAP can make a cogent argument for morality playing a role. I just don't see logic or consistency in arguing that morality plays the narrow and apparently evaporating role that's being described.
posted by cribcage at 8:52 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because I received nothing from the debt buyer. So I don't see how I developed any moral burden to them in the first place.

Not yet you haven't, that's what you're negotiating. If both parties can come to an agreement on the price (the amount it will take the settle the debt) than what the debt collector is selling you is a discount on your legal obligation to settle the debt.

Without the debt collector's willingness to settle the debt for less than what you legally (and arguably morally) owe, they don't exist and your options are a lot less limited.
posted by VTX at 11:28 AM on June 9, 2016


You have an obligation to repay your debt as agreed, full stop. That obligation is to the original credit agreement. When you fail to pay that obligation, there are a series of consequences as laid out in the original agreement. At that point, the creditor is trying to mitigate their loss and they've decided that if they try to collect on the debt, it's going to cost them more than if they just hired a collection agency.

So don't think of it as selling your debt so much as selling a contract to collect the debt on behalf of the original creditor. Either way, the results play out the same way.

I agree that there should be more limits on the fees and penalties but that issue is totally separate from debt collection's issues. but those fees and penalties have been recorded as revenue for the creditor and certainly all of those purchases represent real money that the creditor paid out on your behalf. So when a debt doesn't pay back their debt, they've lost all that money. The fees and interest are just paper losses but that counts the same to the accountants which is what counts with the stock holders. The stock holders expect a certain return based on the risk of the business and other investment opportunities and the creditor wants to outperform it's peers so when they take a loss they need to make up for it somewhere and they make up for it by charging higher and more fees and interest.

You don't see it directly and that's why you have a moral obligation to pay your debts to society at large, when you don't, that loss becomes a social cost.

But I don't think it's really as clear as that because it's not the only moral obligation in play. One might argue that exorbitant fees charged by creditors are morally wrong and, depending on the circumstances, I'd probably agree with you. So I wouldn't have a problem with a person refusing to pay those fees strictly on moral grounds. I think it would be fair to say that you have a moral obligation not to support shady organizations and while I'm sure that some decent debt collection agencies do exist, it seems like most of them are snakes. At that point, the creditor has mitigated as much loss as they're going to mitigate so I suppose your moral obligation to society is gone so it's really just down to what you're willing to pay to avoid whatever consequences the collector can bring to bare and what the collector is willing to accept.
posted by VTX at 12:07 PM on June 9, 2016


You don't see it directly and that's why you have a moral obligation to pay your debts to society at large, when you don't, that loss becomes a social cost.

That's nonsense. There is no "social loss." There may be a loss to a corporation, but that's not a "social loss." But there are gains to others. The money didn't go up in flames. The money was spent on food or rent or cars which means other people were employed and benefited as well. It is a transfer of money from one set of hands to another set of hands, but it isn't a "social loss." It's business which entails both gains and losses.

Lenders are compensated for their risks in the interest rates they charge. They make a cost/benefit decision when they choose to lend. Likewise borrowers make a cost/benefit decision when they choose to repay their debts. Failure to pay debts can have a cost to a borrower (repossession, loss of access to credit, etc) but paying also has a cost. The borrower weighs the cost and benefits just like the lender.

The greatest trick banks and corporations ever pulled off was convincing consumers that their obligation to pay is a moral one. Banks and corporations certainly don't think that about their own debts. Banks and corporations are self-interested liars when they make a moral argument.
posted by JackFlash at 12:37 PM on June 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


When you fail to pay that obligation, there are a series of consequences as laid out in the original agreement.

That's true but incomplete. There are also consequences that aren't laid out in the agreement, because that agreement is made within the confines of a regulated market. An agreement might not specify remedy in event of breach, but that omission doesn't mean no remedy is available. Moreover, an agreement might specify consequences that are unenforceable due to market regulations.

This is the fundamental point. Your contract, your debt, your moral obligation...they don't exist in a vacuum. It's all part of an ecosystem. If I default on my debt to Sam, then Sam might be unable to pay his mortgage. That's a ripple. Based on this experience, Sam might be unwilling to lend money to Tina next month. That's a ripple. Marsha might hear about what happened and refuse to lend me money. That's a ripple. I think people who analyze these things on the Internet with strict, unbending attention to just two named parties and the verbatim terms of their contract are often rationalizing some very self-serving behavior—like in the infamous Amazon camera thread. That's prerogative, and that's fine, but don't try to tell us it's moral.
posted by cribcage at 12:52 PM on June 9, 2016


So you're saying that debtors defaulting on their debts don't have any effect beyond the two parties involved?

The financial crisis started when people began defaulting on their mortgages in large numbers. There were absolutely underlying flaws in the system and outright fraud but remains that if everyone had kept making their mortgage payments, not much would have happened.

As cribcage, each of those things causes a ripple and the sum total of those ripples are social costs/benefits.
posted by VTX at 4:46 PM on June 9, 2016


Every business transaction has benefits and costs and ripple effects. Every single one. Somehow you have singled out consumer debt as one that is unlike all others, that is is not supported by economic analysis but by moral obligation. There is no moral obligation that banks can never lose money as a result of poor investment choices.

A toy company can spend a million dollars designing a new toy and it turns out to be a failure. There are all sorts of ripple effects to shareholders, equipment suppliers, material suppliers, retailers, etc. We don't say that there is a moral obligation that the public must buy those toys to avoid the negative ripple effects of losing money on an ill-considered investment.

Likewise a bank can make decisions to invest in certain loans. If they invest poorly, then they should suffer the consequences of their poor decisions. By insisting that debtors always pay their debts, even if the economic analysis says they they should not, then you are creating a moral hazard in which banks can make any kind of reckless loan without consequence and is always guaranteed a profit. That is anything but a free market.

Individuals, just like corporations, will choose to pay off their loans if it makes economic sense. If not, then individuals, just like corporations, can choose not to pay their loans because on balance, it does not make economic sense to continue. Creating a system in which some sort of "morality" invented for a single special case of consumer debt, rather than rational economic analysis, governs economic decisions is a radical distortion of markets.
posted by JackFlash at 5:12 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I laid out like, a BUNCH of other moral obligations that might supersede your moral obligation to a creditor. And it's not like it's some crazy important thing and you're a horrible person if you don't. I just think that it's better for society if most people pay their debts most of the time. Since, if they don't, it causes problems for society, than you have some small measure of a moral obligation to society at large to pay back your debts.

I mean, I'm a very small part of a giant system put in place to prevent another financial crisis. Mostly, I just want to do a good job, but I DO feel like I have a minor moral obligation to make sure I do my job and all of my co-workers feel the same way.
posted by VTX at 5:27 PM on June 9, 2016


Agreed, VTX. And to rewind a bit, let's keep in mind that nobody in this thread has "singled out" consumer debt with respect to moral obligation. This happened to be a conversation about consumer debt, and in that context someone raised moral obligation as a reason not to pay debt buyers. That's the genesis of the tangent. Nobody raised that flag to shame anybody else.
posted by cribcage at 10:45 PM on June 9, 2016


"Why does shifting that receivable from one entity to another, within the rules and confines of the market where you opted to transact business, relieve you of any moral burden?"

"Your moral burden was never limited to the original creditor in the first place."

" Because it seems like you're arguing the assignment relieves you of any moral burden whatsoever. That sure sounds convenient, but I'm not sure how it's moral."

"But I think IOIHAP can make a cogent argument for morality playing a role."

"Your contract, your debt, your moral obligation...they don't exist in a vacuum."



For someone who claims they aren't raising an issue of moral obligation, you sure spend an awful lot of time talking about moral obligation to pay debt.

Bringing morality into this discussion is just confusing the issue. There is no moral obligation to pay debt.
posted by JackFlash at 11:14 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


You almost made it. Go up one comment further. [Waits.] Got it, now?
posted by cribcage at 5:11 AM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


So you're saying that if I lend you $100, you're under no moral obligation to pay it back?
posted by VTX at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2016


Are you lending as a friend or as a business. If as a business, my obligation to you is defined in the legal terms of the contract and standing law.
posted by JackFlash at 3:55 PM on June 10, 2016


just a belated note to say that this is what the gov't should have done (be doing) instead of the wall street bailout(s) -- viz. principal reduction, cf. TARP -- that it's left to OWS/LWT is, well, a joke...
posted by kliuless at 6:19 PM on June 10, 2016


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