Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” skewered the American debt-buying industry, in which third-party companies can purchase people’s outstanding debt and then demand payment in immoral and often illegal ways. Oliver has learned well from his one-time boss Jon Stewart who won Emmys hand over fist for comic attacks on corrupt institutions on “The Daily Show.”
Watch Oliver’s complete deep-dive examination of the industry above. And below, take a gander at the top five moments:
The luxury of not dying. “Some debts are completely unavoidable,” John Oliver explains when discussing the travesty of trying to squeeze money out of debtors who needed life-saving medical treatment. He adds, “This isn’t someone spending $80,000 on this Versace coat that looks like a banana fucked a Rorschach test. No, this is someone spending $80,000 to breathe.”
No happy endings for debtors. “It’s humiliating, intimidating and provokes anxiety,” says Oliver about the plight of debtors hounded for money by collectors. “To be honest, I’ve had a similar experience, but at least afterwards I got to brag that I finally lost my virginity.”
Like a horde of racist zombies. Oliver explains “zombie debt,” which means to be pursued by collectors even when your debt is past the statute of limitations: “The comparison is quite apt because just like on ‘The Walking Dead,’ zombie debt comes back from the grave, is incredibly hard to deal with and seems to disproportionately impact minorities.”
The debt buyers convention is ‘the gold standard of shitty places.’ “Last Week Tonight” sent people with hidden cameras into the Las Vegas convention for debt buyers, and the footage was fascinating: “Not fascinating like a good book. More fascinating like a rat carrying a wedding ring across some train tracks: there’s a story there, and it’s a fucking sad one … Their business includes collecting on a debt after the debtor passes away.”
The big debt giveaway. Because laws are so lax regulating who is allowed to buy debt, “Last Week Tonight” created its own debt-buying company and in one fell swoop bought and forgave nearly $15 million in medical debt, which was nearly twice as big a gift as Oprah Winfrey’s famous $8 million car giveaway to her entire studio audience. You get debt relief! Everybody gets debt relief!
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