Rolling Jubilee: the activists buying and destroying debt

Activists calling themselves the Rolling Jubilee are striking off millions of pound of debt in a 'bailout of the people, by the people'

(Image credit: 2013 Getty Images)

A group of activists affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement are randomly buying and destroying debt through a large scale crowdfunding campaign.

The international organisation, known as the Royal Jubilee, has so far been responsible for the cancellation of over £11m in debt and is calling for a global 'bailout of the people, by the people".

Just last month, nearly 3,000 students at Everest College in the US discovered that all of their private student debt had disappeared overnight, The Guardian reported.

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So how have they done it?

Through online crowdfunding, the Royal Jubilee has managed to raise over £400,000 which they then used to buy debt from lenders. This "distressed debt" is heavily discounted because borrowers have either defaulted or fallen behind on the repayments. Instead of pursuing that debt at a profit as investors do, they simply destroy it.

The debt is anything from student loans to outstanding medical bills and is bought at random. The entire process is legally sound.


The activists describe what they do as financial liberation, saying too many people in the world are being "held hostage" by creditors.

"We bailed out the banks and in return, they turned their back on us," say those behind the movement. "We don't owe them anything, we owe each other everything."

Will it work?

The activists do, however realise their actions are not going to solve the current debt crisis. "I realise that the debt market is too big for Rolling Jubilee to make a difference, but the action just pokes some really big holes in capitalism," said one supporter.

"The gesture is meant to be symbolic," writes Jana Kasperkevic, "as it proves that debt can be conquered – and at a discount".

Debt in the UK | Create Infographics

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