Americans, You No Longer Have to Pay $14,734,569.87 of Personal Debt



Occupy Wall Street activists did a good deed by freeing Americans of $14,734,569.87 of personal debt during the 12-month period that ended 15 November 2013. The Occupy Wall Street campaign known as Rolling Jubilee (which was started by Occupy’s Strike Debt group) started its campaign on 15 November 2012. In one year, it paid $400,000 to buy $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, most of it medical debt, meaning that it purchased the right to try to collect the money needed to pay that debt from the debtors. Many debt collectors do this. However, instead of trying to collect that money, Occupy Wall Street abolished the debt and sent letters telling the Americans whose debt they had bought that the Americans no longer owed that debt. Here is how Adam Gabbatt of the British newspaper The Guardian explains this secondary debt market: “If individuals consistently fail to pay bills from credit cards, loans, or medical insurance the bank or lender that issued the funds will eventually cut its losses by selling that debt to a third party. These sales occur for a fraction of the debt’s true values — typically for five cents on the dollar — and debt-buying companies then attempt to recoup the debt from the individual debtor and thus make a profit.” Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt and professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, said, “Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way — there’s certainly many, many people who are very thankful that their debts are abolished — our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market.” He added, “Very few people know how cheaply their debts have been bought by collectors. It changes the psychology of the debtor, knowing this. So when you get called up by the debt collector, and you’re being asked to pay the full amount of your debt, you now know that the debt collector has bought your debt very, very cheaply. As cheaply as we bought it. And that gives you moral ammunition to have a different conversation with the debt collector.”Laura Hanna, an organizer with Occupy Wall Street, said, “No one should have to go into debt or bankruptcy because they get sick.”

For Further Information: Adam Gabbatt, “Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt.” Guardian (UK). 12 November 2013

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