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06th Jun 2016

John Oliver has just paid off $15m worth of medical debt

The biggest giveaway in TV history

Carl Anka

John Oliver is one of the good ones.

From relatively small beginnings on episodes of Mock the Week and segments on The Daily Show, the British comic has transformed himself into one of the go-to voices of our times, cheekily explaining the big social and political issues of the day.

We’ve seen him take on British politicians, embarrass FIFA and Sepp Blatter and more on his HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

His target for his latest video? Debt buyers and collectors in America.

Debt collection is a murky business in the United States, with a number of companies buying debt that others owe and then chasing it up with aggressive tactics. Making the situation worse, debt buyers can continue to chase up money owed even if the statute of limitations has run out on the debt.

Deciding to investigate the world of debt collection, Oliver set up his own company and decided to take a stand. 2015 Summer TCA Tour - 31st Annual Television Critics Association Awards

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

“Debt-buying is a grimy business and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it. And I can prove that to you because I am an idiot and we started a debt-buying company,” said Oliver. “And it was disturbingly easy.”

John explained that his show spent $50 to set up a debt-collection agency which he named Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP, “after the bottom-feeding fish.”

Get rich quick business set up, he then set about buying a staggering $15 million (Just over £10 million) in debt from Texas for comparatively small amount of $60,000. As he explained, in buying that debt John Oliver’s show got access to 9,000 people’s personal information, including names, home addresses and social security numbers.

And then came the good bit…

John Oliver medical debt

With the press of a big red button, John then wiped out the entirety of the students’ debt. $15m (£10.4m) worth of pain, stress and worry was erased with a lovely act of kindness from the TV host.

In wiping away the debt, John Oliver has also set the record for the largest TV-giveaway in history, nearly doubling the previous record, when Oprah Winfrey gave 276 members of her audience a free car.

Or as you may remember it, when Oprah spent $8m (around £5.5m) to give us the iconic “Everyone gets a car” moment.


Back to John, and following the clearance, he reminded us that this was only the start of the fightback on dodgy debt collection.

“Now, clearly, this is only going to help the 9,000 people whose medical debt we bought. The larger issue is we need much clearer rules and proper oversight to protect consumers from potentially predatory companies, like the one we set up.”

You said it John. Thanks for looking out for the little guy.