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The Grimy Business Of Buying And Selling Us Debts

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Last weekend, US TV show host John Oliver bought and forgave $15m (£10.3m) worth of medical debt, delighting hundreds of people who had defaulted on the sky-high expenses from life-threatening illnesses. It only cost him $60,000 plus a $50 set-up fee. So is it that simple?

Mr Oliver's show, Last Week Tonight, focused on debt collection companies that buy debt from banks for a small percentage of their actual value.

Mr Oliver set up a company and bought a total of $15m of debt belonging to nearly 9,000 people from hospitals in Texas.

But instead of going on to collect the money, as a real debt buyer would do, Mr Oliver pressed a big red button to symbolise debt forgiveness for all 9,000 on the list.

An interesting piece of TV and bargain charity. Would a billionaire be able to claim full tax relief for such a write off?

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Watchd it yesteday. I believe the point was that the debt has already been defaulted on and legally 'forgiven', but companies could still buy it and try to threaten people to pay it anyway, and if that proves to be unsuccessful, they still end up with huge, dirt-cheap database for whatever use.

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