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The $92,700 Witness

April 24, 2015 at 9:12 am

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The venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins is trying to get its former employee Ellen Pao to either agree not to appeal or to pay its expert witness fees after she unsuccessfully sued for sex discrimination. The New York Times reports: "The vast majority of the fees Kleiner is trying to recover are for witnesses. The fees for Paul Gompers, a professor at Harvard Business School, were $92,700, the filing says."

According to the memorandum of costs, in addition to the $92,700 fee to Professor Gompers, there was an additional $140,000 or so in fees to Cornerstone Research for "P. Gompers support," billed at a "50% discount."

Nice work if you can get it. It's not clear how much time Professor Gompers devoted to the case.

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Uber on Martha's Vineyard

April 23, 2015 at 11:36 am

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The Vineyard Gazette has an article about the possibility that the ride-sharing app Uber will debut this summer on Martha's Vineyard. It concludes with a quote from the owner of a taxi company, a quote that does a wonderful job of encapsulating how incumbent companies try to use the power of the government to protect them from competition that lowers prices and improves service for consumers:

Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Hickey are looking to local government to keep Uber off the Island.

"It's new, it's trendy, it appeals to the Facebook generation," Mr. Hickey said. "I get that. I'm hoping selectmen will step up, or police will step up to stop it."

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Senator Franken Comcast Time-Warner Letter

April 23, 2015 at 11:27 am

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Six senators — Al Franken, Bernard Sanders, Ed Markey, Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren, and Richard Blumenthal — have sent a letter to the FCC and the Justice Department asking them to block a proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast.

If some Republican senator sent a letter to the Justice Department on behalf of a campaign contributor asking for a merger or acquisition to be approved, doubtless it would be considered a scandalous interference. Even Democrats like Senator Menendez and Terry McAuliffe, Harry Reid, and Ed Rendell have gotten in trouble for advocating with the executive branch on behalf of businesses.

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Supreme Court Raisin Case

April 23, 2015 at 11:14 am

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Horne v. Department of Agriculture, a Supreme Court case in which Fresno, Calif. raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne are suing to challenge the constitutionality of a program that forces them to hand over some of their crop to the government, is the topic of a fascinating dispatch by Adam Liptak in the New York Times. At issue in part is whether the program, which seeks to raise raisin prices by reducing the supply, amounts to a Fifth Amendment "taking." From the Times article:

Chief Justice Roberts was particularly critical of a passage in the government's brief, which said that raisin farmers dissatisfied with the marketing program remained free to plant different crops.

"That's a pretty audacious statement," the chief justice said. "If you don't like our regulations, do something else."

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ObamaCare and Organogenesis

April 23, 2015 at 10:39 am

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A $7.4 million state grant to Organogenesis is the topic of an illuminating story in The Boston Globe, which writes, "The Organogenesis case underscores the risks when state leaders place big bets with public money on private companies."

Indeed. The company had promised to grow to 500 employees. Instead it has laid workers off, shrinking from a peak of 350 to 205 at the start of 2015. What hurt?

The company encountered its first big government-imposed setback at the start of 2013, when the new 2.3 percent federal tax on medical device firms' revenue took effect. This Affordable Care Act tax, Lowe said, cost the company more than $2.5 million a year, eliminating funds that could have supported at least 40 jobs.

But the real blow came later that same year. That is when the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services significantly cut reimbursement rates for Organogenesis' Apligraf and Shire's Dermagraft products.

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Hillary Hears Something

April 21, 2015 at 10:00 am

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From a Boston Globe account of a Hillary Clinton campaign trip to New Hampshire:

Clinton also made a veiled criticism at President Obama's track record on small businesses. "We've stalled out," Clinton said, saying she's been hearing repeatedly from small business owners who cite regulatory barriers to growth.

Maybe those small business owners are on to something? If Mrs. Clinton would propose to do something about it, it might actually be a constructive contribution. She might learn something from the example of the underrated President Carter. As I wrote:

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On Eve of Watch's Launch, Left Calls Apple Rotten

April 21, 2015 at 8:59 am

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The Apple watch goes on sale Friday, and, just in time, the left is preparing a new assault on the world's most-admired company. That's the topic of my column this week; please check it out at Reason (here) and Newsmax (here).

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Another View

April 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

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It's sometimes downright funny to watch the "mainstream media" try to appear unbiased. Today's example comes from USA Today, which, as editorial pages go, isn't bad — I've written for it, and they run a weekly column by Instapundit Glenn Reynolds. The staff editorial appears under the headline "Race to the right could run over GOP nominee: Our view." It expresses the worry that Republican candidates will run too far to the right in the primary to win a general election:

After their recent presidential losses, Republicans are hungry to get back into the White House. They have many bright, energetic and accomplished candidates. The question is whether they can rally behind one who's far enough into the political mainstream that it gives them a chance to win.

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Schneiderman's Snake Oil

April 15, 2015 at 11:06 am

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The New York attorney general's action against herbal supplements, the subject of a post here the other day, is the topic of a skeptical column by New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond, who writes that the attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, "built his entire case on bad science" and "owes an apology both to the companies he unfairly accused and the consumers he misleadingly alarmed."

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Penn Professor Backs 90 Percent Tax Rate

April 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm

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A paper issued earlier this year by Dirk Krueger, who is a professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania and the interim chair of the economics department there, finds "the optimal marginal tax rates on the top 1% of earners is indeed very high, in excess of 90%."

I don't find the paper particularly convincing, but what made me chuckle was the acknowledgements, in which the authors thank "the Philadelphia Fed lunchtime seminar" and in which "Krueger thanks the National Science Foundation for support under grant SES 1123547." That was a grant of $269,550 covering three years from 2011 to 2014, according to information from the NSF website.

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Another Non-Bank Lender

April 14, 2015 at 12:01 pm

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The New York Times has come in with yet a third informative, non-hostile article about the growing category of non-bank lenders (in addition to the two articles I wrote about in a post here the other day titled Non-Bank Lenders). The latest Times item is about a company called Vouch Financial, which the Times says has "raised $3.6 million from venture capital firms including IDG Ventures and Greylock Partners." Reports the Times:

The Vouch formula looks to back to a bygone era of banking when community bankers routinely asked their customers for "social character" references before granting loans. "We've taken that principle and digitized it," said Yee Lee, co-founder and chief executive of Vouch.

It also borrows from the concept of co-signing for loans, when a relative or friend is liable for repayment if the borrower turns out to be a deadbeat.

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Rubio's Risks

April 14, 2015 at 11:33 am

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The risks of Marco Rubio as a president or presidential candidate are the subject of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Preet's Publicity

April 13, 2015 at 4:38 pm

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The New York Times notes an opinion issued Friday in which a federal judge criticizes the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, for his public comments about Sheldon Silver, the assemblyman from Manhattan. The judge wrote: "In this case, the U.S. attorney, while castigating politicians in Albany for playing fast and loose with the ethical rules that govern their conduct, strayed so close to the edge of the rules governing his own conduct that Defendant Sheldon Silver has a non-frivolous argument that he fell over the edge to the Defendant's prejudice."

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Profile in Courage

April 13, 2015 at 12:02 pm

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The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is giving its 2015 Profile In Courage Award to a Republican former congressman from South Carolina, Bob Inglis. From the announcement:

Former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis was named the 2015 recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ for the political courage he demonstrated when he reversed his previous position on climate change, knowing that by acknowledging the scientific reality of atmospheric warming and calling on the United States to meaningfully address the issue, he was jeopardizing his political career. In June 2010, Inglis lost his re-election due in part to this decision. The prestigious award for political courage will be presented by Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy's grandson, at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on May 3, 2015.

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Retailers Under Fire

April 13, 2015 at 11:17 am

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New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, has sent a letter to 13 retailers asking for information about how they schedule employees for work, the Wall Street Journal reports. Not on the list of targets for the attorney general: CVS, Starbucks, or Costco.

It's reminiscent of the attorney general's campaign against Walmart, GNC, Target, and Walgreens for their sales of herbal supplements. There, too, CVS and Costco escaped scrutiny.

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