On Sunday, John Oliver staged the “largest one-time giveaway in television history” when he forgave nearly $15 million in debt belonging to 9,000 Americans.
Oliver spent the first part his show dissecting the debt-buying business, detailing the shady ways companies buy and sell the debt belonging to Americans, and how they collect it,…even if the statute of limitations has run out on the debt. Oliver highlighted how the problem has been well-documented, and how the debt-buying industry is battling scores of complaints by the Federal Trade Commission.
“As it stands, any idiot can get into it, and I can prove that to you, because I’m an idiot and we started a debt-buying company, and it was disturbingly easy.”
Oliver said he started a debt-buying company in April, and shortly after he launched a website and paid $50 to have the debt-acquisition firm registered, he was offered $14,922,261.76 in debt for the low price of $60,000. The parent company behind “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” covered the $60,000 cost. Oliver revealed once he paid, he received the social security numbers, names and addresses of 9,000 people in Texas.
“We thought instead of collecting on the money, why not forgive it? Because on one hand, it’s obviously the right thing to do, but much more importantly we’d be staging the largest one-time giveaway in television show history.”
Oliver then pushed a symbolic red button and declared the debt had been officially given to the non-profit.