John Oliver’s HBO show Last Week Tonight has become known for its sharp critiques of the American economic system, from predatory payday loans to the sham that is your credit score.
On his latest segment, Oliver tackles debt–more specifically, how debt cripples American households (which have $12.25 trillion in debt as of this year) and leads Nicholas Cage to take a lot of questionable movie roles. He describes a nightmarish “debt-buying industry” in which unlicensed, unprofessional debt-collection agencies buy up debt in bulk for pennies on the dollar. These agencies can then aggressively go after people the people who owe, often using unethical tactics, such as making threatening phone calls to debtors, and their bosses and families.
Oliver, of course, decided to create his own debt acquisition company, which he named Central Asset Recovery Professionals, Inc, or Carp. “It was disturbingly easy . . . we spent $50,” Oliver says.
Then Oliver delivers the real punch: Carp teamed up with the not-for-profit organization RIPx Medical Debt to buy up and forgive nearly $15 million in medical debt, which previously belonged to some 9,000 people.
But, Oliver jokes, the true motivation behind the stunt was to pull off the largest one-time giveaway in television history, beating out Oprah’s $8 million “you get a car” free-for-all. Either way, you go, John Oliver.
Watch the segment below: