John Oliver forgives $15M in medical debt

On his program Sunday, John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, demonstrated how easy it is to get into the debt buying business and gain access to the personal information of thousands of people.

"It is pretty clear by now [that] debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it," Mr. Oliver said. "And I can prove that to you, because I'm an idiot, and we started a debt-buying company. And it was disturbingly easy."

Mr. Oliver went on to explain that his show spent $50 in April to incorporate a debt acquisition company in Mississippi. They named the business Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP, "after the bottom-feeding fish," said Mr. Oliver.

Soon after setting up a bland website, CARP was offered nearly $15 million in medical debt from Texas for about $60,000, or less than half a cent on the dollar. For that amount, CARP bought the names, current addresses and Social Security numbers of nearly 9,000 people who owed the debts.

Instead of trying to collect from those people, CARP and Mr. Oliver, who was appointed chairman of the company's board, forgave the old bills.

By forgiving the $15 million in debt, Mr. Oliver staged the largest one-time giveaway in television show history, beating Oprah's 2004 giveaway of $8 million in cars on her show.

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