John Oliver Gave Away $15 Million in Debt Relief

These independent debt-buying companies can be sloppy, unscrupulous and downright criminal. On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver waded into the grimy world of companies that buy and sell debt. If, say, someone’s credit card bill is past due, the bank can write off the debt as a loss and then sell the right to collect that debt to another company for cheap.

Oliver explained the techniques these companies use to make themselves seem like the good guys by making sure scofflaws are brought to justice while actually being total creeps. But since John Oliver and his team really are good guys, they started a debt collection company (disturbingly easy to do online) and quickly obtained nearly $15 million in past-due medical debt from Texas at a cost of $60,000. Rather than collect it, though, they decided to forgive it, both because it’s the right thing to do and because it would be “the largest one-time giveaway in television show history.” It’s even bigger than when Oprah gave everyone a car.

So if you’re one of the 9,000 Texans with medical debt that Oliver just erased, today is a very lucky day. You may be getting a phone call with some very good news pretty soon.

John Oliver, <em>Last Week Tonight</em>John Oliver, Last Week Tonight