A book being released early next week takes an unflinching look at the world of consumer debt buying, specifically the market for secondary portfolio purchases and the unique challenges facing ARM professionals that chase older debt.

The book, “Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld,” is a continuation and expansion of the recent work of author Jake Halpern. The book will be available for purchase October 14.

Halpern has published a number of pieces over the past several years, all stemming from his investigation of the debt buying industry, mostly in the Buffalo, N.Y. area. In August, The New York Times Magazine ran a piece, “Paper Boys,” that was a direct adaptation from the book. In 2012, news broke that HBO was developing a TV series based on a 2010 New Yorker piece, “Pay Up,” also written by Halpern. That story, while involving different characters, also focused on Buffalo debt buyers.

But now the main work is hitting the stands.

The official description from the publisher reads: 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.

And there have been plenty of recent media appearances that serve as an indication of the tone of the book.

Halpern sat down this week with NPR’s “Fresh Air” for a lengthy segment discussing the book. He says at one point, “It would be convenient and easy to just kind of vilify the collectors as the kind of heartless player in this drama. But what was apparent was what you said, which is that a lot of these guys that are collecting are just a step or two beyond poverty or if they’ve done well themselves, they’ve worked very, very hard to pull themselves out of difficult situations.”

He also relayed his experience posing as a debt collector for the book. That experience was covered in a New York Times piece last weekend titled “A Debt Collector’s Day.”

The book promises to be a thorough and realistic exploration of a branch of the ARM industry. We haven’t had a chance to read the entire book. Would insideARM.com readers be interested in an official book review? We take reading seriously at the global headquarters.


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