ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

Unforgiven

Our first-of-its-kind analysis shows that the suits are far more common in black communities than white ones. More »

ProPublica spent years gathering data to shed light on how debt collectors use the courts. Today, we run through the most important lessons we learned about a tactic that affects millions. More »

Cheap court fees and looser rules make suing over medical debts as small as $60 easy. Every year Nebraska collection agencies file lawsuits by the tens of thousands. More »

One Missouri hospital has sued thousands of uninsured patients who couldn’t pay for their care, then grabbed a hefty portion of their paychecks to cover the bills. “We will be paying them off until we die,” one debtor said. More »

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans. More »

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands. More »

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Company That Sued Soldiers Settles Colorado Lawsuit

The Virginia-based company was the focus of a 2014 ProPublica investigation of its lending and collection practices.

In Bill, Lawmakers Propose New Limits for Seizing Workers’ Pay Over Old Debts

Last week, two lawmakers introduced a bill to put new limits on what debt collectors can take from debtors’ paychecks and bank accounts. It is the first legislation to address the issue in decades and follows a series of ProPublica stories about the widespread practice of garnishment.

Nonprofit Hospital Stops Suing So Many Poor Patients: Will Others Follow?

A story by ProPublica and NPR and a Senate investigation prompt a Missouri nonprofit hospital to change its policies and forgive thousands of patients’ debts. But without similar scrutiny, it’s unclear if other hospitals that sue the poor will change.

So Sue Them: What We’ve Learned About the Debt Collection Lawsuit Machine

ProPublica spent years gathering data to shed light on how debt collectors use the courts. Today, we run through the most important lessons we learned about a tactic that affects millions.

For Nebraska’s Poor, Get Sick and Get Sued

Cheap court fees and looser rules make suing over medical debts as small as $60 easy. Every year Nebraska collection agencies file lawsuits by the tens of thousands.

Why Small Debts Matter So Much To Black Lives

Due to the racial wealth gap, black families have far less in savings than whites. The consequences can be far-reaching and often severe.

At Capital One, Easy Credit and Abundant Lawsuits

A ProPublica analysis of state court filings reveals that Capital One sues its customers far more than any other bank.

To Address Race Gap, Missouri AG Pushes Debt Collection Fixes

Citing ProPublica’s reporting, Missouri’s attorney general proposed reforms to the state court rules to address the prevalence of debt collection suits in black neighborhoods.

What Can Be Done Right Now to Fix the Legal System for Debt Collection

America’s out-of-date, unfair laws for collecting debts could be dramatically improved by these simple steps.

The Color of Debt

The black neighborhoods where collection suits hit hardest

The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, ProPublica reveals that the suits are far more common in black communities than white ones.

How We Analyzed Racial Disparity in Debt Collection Lawsuits

An explanation of how we analyzed whether debt collection lawsuits disproportionately impact black communities.

Company That Sued Soldiers Closes Its Stores

After a ProPublica investigation of USA Discounters’ lending practices last summer, a barrage of lawsuits, regulatory inquiries and changes to Defense Department policies followed.

Senator to Hospitals: Stop Suing Poor Patients

Prompted by an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley asks a Missouri nonprofit hospital to explain why it seizes the wages of thousands of its patients.

For Nonprofit Hospitals Who Sue Patients, New Rules

Nonprofit hospitals get big tax breaks for providing care for patients who can't afford it. Under new IRS rules these hospitals must take extra steps to inform poor patients they may qualify for financial assistance.

Feds Bar Companies’ Long-Distance Lawsuits Against Soldiers

In the latest move against companies targeting military customers, federal regulators prohibit two Virginia-based lenders from suing out-of-state debtors in Virginia courts. The companies were featured in a ProPublica story in July.

In Alabama, A Public Hospital Serves the Poor — with Lawsuits

Public hospitals can be among the most aggressive in collecting debts from poor patients, not only garnishing their wages, but cleaning out their bank accounts. “It makes me sick,” said one legal aid attorney.

From the E.R. to the Courtroom: How Nonprofit Hospitals Are Seizing Patients’ Wages

One Missouri hospital has sued thousands of uninsured patients who couldn't pay for their care, then grabbed a hefty portion of their paychecks to cover the bills. "We will be paying them off until we die," one debtor said.

Company That Sues Soldiers Pledges Reform, Changes Name

USA Discounters, promising to change how it pursues military debtors, will now be known as USA Living.

Old Debts, Fresh Pain: Weak Laws Offer Debtors Little Protection

Critics say the 1968 federal law that allows collectors to take 25 percent of debtors' wages, or every penny in their bank accounts, is out of date and overly harsh.

Unseen Toll: Wages of Millions Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.

Getting Sued Over Debt: Readers Tell Their Stories

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.

Senators Push For Investigation of USA Discounters’ ‘Aggressive’ Tactics

The Defense Department and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are urged to see whether service members are able to defend themselves against lawsuits while on active duty.

Podcast: ‘No Credit? Need Credit?’ It’ll Cost You

Reporter Paul Kiel talks about the ways installment-loan lenders skirt the law to get customers on the payment treadmill – and then into court.

USA Discounters Responds to ProPublica Article

The company says ProPublica “inaccurately” portrayed its policies regarding military customers, but cites no errors.

For Lenders, Gaps in Federal Law Make Suing Soldiers Easy

Courts are required to appoint attorneys for service members if they are sued and can’t appear. But the law says little about what those lawyers must do. Some companies have taken advantage.

Thank You for Your Service: How One Company Sues Soldiers Worldwide

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands.

Have You Ever Been Sued Over a Debt? Help Us Investigate Collection Practices

We’re reporting on how consumers are affected by the confusing new system of debt collection. Do you have a story to share?

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