Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld
Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld, Jake Halpern
Credit card and student debt are a little outside the realm of my expertise, but it was tough to put this down as Halpern weaved the story of collectors and enforcers trying to cash in on debt they’d bought at pennies on the dollar from the major US banks and credit card companies. Definitely an underworld of debt collection out there, glad we’re on a automatic payments on our credit cards!
Amazon: Everyone knows about collections agencies, but how they actually operate is much more interesting than you probably think. Falling somewhere between Glengarry Glen Ross and Mean Streets, Jake Halpern’s Bad Paper introduces us to an economy spanning many shades of gray. Halpern’s book tracks the descent of “paper” (spreadsheets containing the information of millions of debtors and their debts) as it’s sold for pennies on the dollar by banks and credit companies and passed through a network of collectors. Files are often bought and sold multiple times, each transaction stripping away the best remaining prospects as collectors wring paper dry through all manners of persuasion and coercion. Along the way, Halpern encounters first-hand the game’s players, from the financiers at the top of the pyramid to mid-level “brokers” and the ground-level phone-jockeys; these are all hard men within their contexts, as one tale of a Tarantino-grade stand-off over stolen information attests. This book is unexpected, and unexpectedly fun.