Derek Osprey's infamous taxi meterOn August 13th 2007, taxi driver Derek Osprey dropped off a fare at the Prestige Inn in Boston, Massachusetts and was instructed to wait while his passenger, a handkerchief salesman named Hamish Dolt, ran inside to fetch his suitcase. Three days later, Dolt emerged from the hotel after a sudden bout of illness and boarded a plane for Dubai. He failed to notice on leaving that Osprey was still parked outside, the meter still running. Dolt’s business trip was unsuccessful and he returned to his home in Pittsburgh soon after to work as a realtor. It was several months before he returned to Boston on business, and he stayed once more at the Prestige. After stepping outside to hail a taxi on the morning of June 12th 2008 he was surprised to find Osprey still waiting in the same spot. A heated discourse followed when Osprey demanded he pay the full fare, now totalling almost $1.4 million. Dolt insisted that he simply couldn’t afford to pay, but Osprey was adamant that the debt must be settled, having taken out a mortgage and several personal loans using the promise of the paid fare as collateral.

Threatened with a lawsuit, Dolt attempted to raise the funds by selling his shares in a profitable DVD rental company he had invested in six years earlier. On attempting to recoup his investment he discovered that the business was deeply in debt, and its previous positive valuations had been based primarily on the assumed repayment of $12 million of late fines by an individual named Eric Finch, who had rented the complete collection of The Sopranos on the company’s first day and never returned it. When confronted by debtors, Finch responded that he would be unable to make the payments until the receipt of moneys owed to him by his friend Marvin, who had bet him $100 gazillion that he couldn’t fit a Mars bar up his nose. At this point the enormous gulf in actual financial assets at the heart of the American economy became brutally clear, and as the details began to emerge it triggered a debt crisis that sent shockwaves around the world. By May 2009 a global credit freeze was in full force; loans became near unobtainable, down payments on mortgages were raised to 103%, and most restaurants required that customers submit to a credit check upon booking a table.

It took several years for normal financial business to be resumed, and during this time an embittered Osprey ploughed his energies into developing a fleet of coin-operated taxis, to forever rid the world of fare-dodging. Sadly the business was not successful and Osprey once more found himself owing considerable sums to investors. Osprey resolved not be beaten again and in a stroke of financial genius he succeeded in packaging up his own debts as a “Self-Collateralized Debt Obligation” and selling it off to a Wall Street investor through a shell company. He then simply defaulted on his loans, retaining a healthy transaction fee through the shell company and leaving the investor with repossessed assets to the tune of 47 taxi cabs that backfired if you put in two nickels at once. Osprey later published a best-selling book, Fiscal Schmiscal, and served two distinguished terms as President of Greece.