Bad Paper

Bad Paper

Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld

By Jake Halpern

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374108236, 256pp.

Publication Date: October 14, 2014

Description

The Federal Trade Commission receives more complaints about rogue debt collecting than about any activity besides identity theft. Dramatically and entertainingly, "Bad Paper" reveals why. It tells the story of Aaron Siegel, a former banking executive, and Brandon Wilson, 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 Aaron and Brandon learn, the world of consumer debt collection is an unregulated shadowland where operators often make unwarranted threats and even collect debts that are not theirs.

Introducing an unforgettable cast of strivers and rogues, Jake Halpern chronicles their lives as they manage high-pressure call centers, hunt for paper in Las Vegas casinos, and meet in parked cars to sell the social security numbers and account information of unsuspecting consumers. He also tracks a "package" of debt that is stolen by unscrupulous collectors, leading to a dramatic showdown with guns in a Buffalo corner store. Along the way, he reveals the human cost of a system that compounds the troubles of hardworking Americans and permits banks to ignore their former customers. The result is a vital expose that is also a bravura feat of storytelling.



About the Author
Jake Halpern is a journalist and author born in 1975. His book, "Braving Home" was a main selection for the Book of the Month Club by Bill Bryson and was a Library Journal Book of the Year. He is a contributor to NPR's All Things Considered and This American Life. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, The New Republic, Slate, Smithsonian, Entertainment Weekly, Outside, New York Magazine, and other publications. He is a fellow of Morse College at Yale University, where he teaches a class on writing.


Praise For Bad Paper

Praise for Braving Home

“The old homily ‘there is no place like home’ has never been more poignantly and wittily revealed than by Jake Halpern in these lovely vignettes.” —Studs Terkel

“Strangely fascinating and endearing . . . In short, it’s terrific.” —Bill Bryson

“Not for a long time have I read a book so good and so wise.” —Robert Stone



NPR
Thursday, Oct 9, 2014

In his new book, Jake Halpern looks at the industry, where having a criminal background is no barrier to entry. He explains debt buying and how little regulation gave rise to a chaotic marketplace. More at NPR.org

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