Jake Halpern introduces us to a former banking executive and a former armed robber who become partners and go in quest of "paper" - the uncollected debts that are sold off by banks for pennies on the dollar. As Halpern shows, the world of consumer debt collection is a wild and unregulated shadow land, where operators may misrepresent a debtor's situation, make illegal threats, and even lay claim to debts that are not theirs to collect in the first place. Halpern follows his collectors as they intimidate competitors with weapons, manage high-pressure call centers, and scheme new ways to benefit from American's debt-industrial complex. He also explores the history of collection agencies and reveals the human cost of a system that leaves hardworking Americans with little opportunity to retire their debts in a reasonable way.
©2014 Jake Halpern (P)2014 Dreamscape Media, LLC
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
“I’d be a bum on the street with a tin cup if the markets were efficient.”
― Jake Halpern, Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld
New New Journalism about the financial/debt markets is "So HOT right now".
I went into this book thinking it was going to be a bad copy of a Michael Lewis book. Anyway, a friend of mine recommended this highly. She also has a great book out about debt and the poor (How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy), so I overcame my reluctance and read 'Bad Paper'. IT stunned me. A lot of the basics I understood before, but Halpern was able to add detail and texture to the industry and the players. It reads like Dante's Inferno. First Circle (Banks?), Second Circle (Hedge Funds/Debt Buyers?), Third Circle (Fresh Debt Brokers?), Fourth Circle (Large, more reputable Debt Collectors?), Fifth Circle (Mom & Pop Debt Collectors?), 6th Circle (Older/Crap/Bad Paper Brokers?), 7th Circle (White Dope Peddlers?), 8th Circle (Thieves?), Lawyers (9th Circle). I guess it holds up.
Anyway, the book was tighter than I imagined it was going to be. It was measured, well-documented, and its methodology was documented and obvious. Jake Halpern wasn't venturing too far out with his recommendation or his observations. He played a very close narrative game, and it worked well of this book. Sometimes, you don't have to cook the story too much, the story is already there -- waiting to be eaten. Jake Halern did a good balance of being in the story and getting the hell out of the way.
So, next on my list (after I recover from the emotional toil of this book) is Mehrsa Baradaran's book (How the Other Half Banks) and Jayne Meyer's Dark Money.
The gritty, often shady, business of buying, selling, and collecting debt is told in this closeup view of some people in the industry. Strongly recommended!
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