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OpenMarket: John Berlau

  • Mel Watt Fails Taxpayer, Privacy, and Transparency Tests

    October 31, 2013
    Former Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., failed his procedural confirmation vote today to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the government housing entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. His defeat -- so far -- is a victory not just for fiscal integrity, but for privacy and transparency as well.

    As a congressman, Watt egged on the reckless policies of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that got us into the mortgage crisis from which the economy is still recovering. But just as bad, he was on the wrong side of both liberals and conservative reformers on two crucial issues. Watt was a co-sponsor and vocal supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which collapsed in 2012 after a transpartisan coalition made the public aware of its threat to privacy and innovation. And...
  • Don't Let FTC Shut Down Legit Credit Repair Services

    October 29, 2013
    Next to the infamous, the website that featured the most bugs of the last month was, the site of the Federal Trade Commission.

    During the shutdown, many government websites were frozen to avoid the cost of upkeep, but with disjointed patterns. And Cato Institute Research Fellow Julian Sanchez noted at Slate that the FTC site was among the "weirder."

    "Browse to any of their pages and you’ll see, for a split second, the full content of the page you want—only to be redirected to a shutdown notice page also hosted at," Sanchez wrote. "If the full site is actually still running, it’s hard to see how a redirect after the real page is served could be avoiding any expenditures."

    Now that the shutdown is...
  • Shut Down Fannie and Freddie Permanently

    October 11, 2013
    Cross-posted from

    “U.S. Government Shutdown Threatening Housing Recovery,” screams the Oct. 2 headline of a shutdown scare screed in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

    Wade into the story, however, and we see that what’s really at hand is a mere delay of processing of mortgages because of some employees furloughed at the Federal Housing Administration.

    Furthermore, as the article explains, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will remain completely open because ” the government-controlled mortgage aggregators fund operations through fees collected from private lenders”...
  • Twitter IPO a Vindication of Bipartisan JOBS Act

    October 4, 2013
    Almost two years ago, I wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled, "Making It Legal to Tweet for Investors." In the op-ed, I described bipartisan bills that contained modest but significant deregulation of securities laws—an update for the age of social networking.

    These bills were eventually merged into the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed by President Obama in April 2012. And in a twist, Twitter is using JOBS Act provisions for its own intial public offering, as revealed by the filing of its first IPO documents last night.

    And investors are better off for it, as companies like Twitter going public at earlier stages of growth will mean greater opportunity for ordinary shareholders to grow wealthy with the company. And going public at an earlier stage...
  • Mississippi Should Tell CFPB to "Stop Spying on Me"

    September 17, 2013
    The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is coming to Mississippi Wednesday and Thursday with a public forum on "access to information." A vital question for Mississippians to ask leaders of the bureaucracy at the venue, being held from 11 AM to 1 PM tomorrow at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, is why the CFPB wants so much access to their personal information.

    Here is the CFPB's meeting agenda for Mississippi. This Facebook page tells about the privacy violations and other problems with this uniquely unaccountable governmental entity.

    The CFPB, created by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul to defend consumers in the credit card and mortgage markets, is building a database of sensitive individual financial information...
  • Paul and Udall Push Bipartisan Credit Union Business Lending Regulatory Reform

    September 10, 2013
    Today, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is launching its "Don't Tax Tuesday" in which credit unions and their supporters tweet members of Congress about not double taxing credit union members in the name of "tax reform." Another group, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU), is holding a "Congressional Caucus" this week in which leaders and members of credit unions meet with lawmakers about the impact of current and proposed taxes and regulations.

    Much of credit union's big government burden is the same as that as faced by banks through the 2,500 pages of the Dodd-Frank financial "reform" rammed through in 2010 and the unaccountable Consumer Financial Protection Bureau it created. Credit Unions have...
  • Judge Leon's Lawless Durbin Amendment Debit Card Decision

    August 19, 2013
    Since Judge Richard Leon issued his shocking decision on July 31 that called for even more draconian price controls under Dodd-Frank's Durbin Amendment, some legal commentators have given the judge the benefit of the doubt. They concede the Durbin Amendment is bad law, but they say Judge Leon was correct in his interpretation of the amendment, which basically mandates the Federal Reseve not set price caps on what banks and credit unions charge for interchange fees on debit cards at any rate higher than retailers would like to pay them.

    These commentators, some of whom I respect a great deal, simply overlook the incredible sloppiness in Leon's ruling in...
  • Not With Banks, Not With Retailers, But With Freedom

    August 9, 2013
    In explaining my policy positions, I often find myself pointing out I am neither pro-business nor pro-bank, but pro-market. My Competitive Enterprise Institute colleagues and I might have a position that lines up with a particular industry group on one issue but opposes it on another. The only guide we have is which policies further consumer choice and the free market, and which restrict it.

    Two events that have arisen over the past couple weeks illustrate this principle. Banks and retailers often are at opposite ends of a policy fight, and this is reflected in some high-profile provisions of the 2,500-page Dodd-Frank financial "reform" legislation. I find myself siding with bankers against retailers in one instance and with retailers against bankers in another.

    In one instance, the Durbin Amendment controls prices on debit card processing fees for retailers. On this, I line up with...
  • Court Wrong to Make Dodd-Frank Durbin Price Controls More Draconian

    July 31, 2013
    Today, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the Federal Reserve's implementation of the Durbin Amendment of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, which sets price controls on what banks and credit unions can charge retailers to process debit card purchases, was not draconian enough. Though I am no fan of either Dodd-Frank or the Durbin Amendment, this is a severely flawed reading of the law based on a false definition of "legislative intent."

    Should the Fed adopt Leon's interpretation, it will almost certainly result in more bank and credit union fees for consumers. The Fed would also open itself up to even more litigation on the price controls, including constitutional issues involving the property right to seek a return on capital invested guaranteed by Due Process and Takings clauses of the 5th...
  • On Dodd-Frank's 3rd Anniversary, "North Star" is Further Out of Reach

    July 22, 2013
    Over the weekend, President Obama hailed the third anniversary of the enactment of the Dodd-Frank "financial reform." In his weekly radio address, the president also hailed the confirmation of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, which occurred last week after Senate Republicans caved to Majority Leader Harry Reid's "nuclear option" threat to end the filibuster.

    The president began his address, "Three years ago this weekend, we put in place tough new rules of the road for the financial sector so that irresponsible behavior on the part of the few could never again cause a crisis that harms millions of middle-class families." And he concluded, "If we keep moving forward with our eyes fixed on that North Star of a growing middle class, I’m confident we’ll get...


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