Two items from today’s New York Times to file under “Have They No Shame?”.
- This gem about a company that does debt collection for dead people, i.e., calling up the next of kin to get them to pay their recently departed relatives’ $500 Discover bill or whatever. What they don’t tell them (unless asked) is that they are often under no obligation to pay. The company’s staff are trained in grief counseling so that they can sound sympathetic and thereby maximize collection. It also helps to know the psychology of grief: people often feel better about paying that $500 Discover card bill to ensure Aunt Betty’s eternal rest. Here’s one tidbit, from a thank you note (!!) that one person sent to the company: “One widow wrote that a collector ‘was so nice to me, even when I could only pay $5 a month a few times.’ Saying that money was ‘so tight’ after her husband died, she added: ‘It was very hard for me, and to get a job at my age. Thank you.’”
- This one about a new company, PennyMac, that former Countrywide executives have formed. The company has been “buying up delinquent home mortgages that the government took over from other failed banks, sometimes for pennies on the dollar. They get a piece of what they can collect.” The money quote:”‘It has been very successful—very strong,’ John Lawrence, the company’s head of loan servicing, told Mr. Kurland one recent morning in a glass-walled boardroom here at PennyMac’s spacious headquarters, opened last year in the same Los Angeles suburb where Countrywide once flourished. ‘In fact, it’s off-the-charts good,’ he told Mr. Kurland, who was leaning back comfortably in his leather boardroom chair, even as the financial markets in New York were plunging.”