Why I wrote this book

Interesting Stats

The Lingo of Debt Collectors

The Major Characters

Aaron Siegel:  Aaron is a former banking executive and one of the protagonists of the book.  Early in his career, Aaron landed a job at HSBC and completed the bank’s executive training course in London. By all indications, he was well on his way to a very respectable career in the financial world. Aaron was smart, hardworking, and ambitious. All he had to do was keep moving up the corporate ladder; instead, he decided to take a gamble.  In 2008, he created a private equity fund that purchased well over a billion dollars of “distressed consumer debt”  -- basically the right to collect on unpaid consumer debt.  He also teamed up with a former armed-robber named Brandon Wilson.  (See below.)

Brandon Wilson:  Brandon is a former armed-robber who – after spending ten years in prison – gets a fresh start as a debt broker.  He is the other protagonist in the book.  Brandon is colorful, shrewd, and tough.  He has a genius for finding good “paper” (i.e., debt) that can be collected on profitably.  Brandon also offer something else: “Part of the package you get of being my business associate or my friend is that I’m gonna protect you from the sharks,” he explains.  And by “sharks” Brandon is referring to the industry’s many unscrupulous collectors, brokers, and agency owners.  “If you don’t give them a little bit of fear, right — if it’s just the law, if it’s just the attorney general, if it’s just a civil suit — they could care less.”

Shafeeq:  Shafeeq runs one of the collection agencies that Aaron hires to “work” his paper.  He is a devout Muslim, who tries to avoid charging interest whenever possible.  Shafeeq also runs his own security firm and is licensed to carry a firearm.

Theresa:  She is a debtor, whose debt Aaron Siegel owns.  Theresa’s debt gets stolen and Brandon eventually must rescue it from the debt underworld.  Theresa joined the U.S. Marines in the early 1990s, at the age of eighteen, and served for the next eight years.  She was so determined to live responsibly that, throughout much of her teens, she worked more than thirty hours a week at McDonald’s, earning $4.25 an hour.

Jimmy:  Jimmy is a former cocaine dealer who later opens a collection agency on the East Side of Buffalo.  “I feel like I am great at this,” he says. “I have a lot of things that I have been good at, but I am so good at this that I don’t have to break the law.”

Larry:  Larry is a debt broker based in Buffalo.  Larry says that he has often made deals in his car in which the buyer gave him cash, and he handed the buyer a thumb drive with a spreadsheet containing the names, addresses, social security numbers, credit-card balances, or loan amounts of several thousand debtors.  Where exactly did such files coming from? “I’m not asking where the files are coming from,” says Larry. “I’m just dealing.”