The Truth-O-Meter Says:
Biden

"I don't own a single stock or bond … I have no savings accounts."

Joe Biden on Monday, June 23rd, 2014 in the White House Summit on Working Families

Biden says he has no stocks, bonds or savings accounts

Following in Hillary Clinton's footsteps, Vice President Joe Biden made a splash with a statement about his personal finances.

At President Barack Obama's Summit for Working Families Monday, Biden made an attempt to seem relatable to the typical American family by talking about his modest finances.

"I don't own a single stock or bond ... I have no savings accounts. But I got a great pension, and I got a good salary," he said.

Even though Biden was known as one of the poorest members of Congress while he was a senator, the statement raised some eyebrows.

Just last week, we rated Clinton's claim that she and former President Bill Clinton were "dead broke" when they left the White House as Mostly False.

So how do Biden’s finances stack up?

At the North American International Auto Show in January, Biden said that when he first ran for office in 1972, he promised he would never own any stocks or bonds.

Biden’s office declined to comment on the record about his finances and whether or not he lived up to that promise. But we were able to look at Biden’s 2013 executive branch personnel public financial disclosure report, which was submitted just last month.

The report lists about a dozen investments, all of which fall into the $1,001 - $15,000 range.

However, they're not strictly his.

All 11 are designated by the letter "S"-- used to indicate that the holding belongs to the filer’s spouse. That means the 11 investments are owned by Jill Biden, his wife of 37 years.

But the savings accounts are a different story.

According to the disclosure documents, the Bidens have five savings accounts, which fall into a larger range. Some amounted to less than $1,001, while others fell into the $50,001 - $100,000 category.

Four of the five accounts belong to the vice president's wife, while the final one has the classification "J" -- a joint account that belongs to both of them. This U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union account's holdings fall into the $1,001 - $15,000 range.

Even if the investments aren't in the vice president's name, they are part of his household wealth, and he stands to benefit from their success, said George Pennacchi, a finance professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Jeffrey Hoopes, an accounting professor at Ohio State University, compared the situation to a household with two cars -- where each spouse drives a car, but both titles are only in the husband's name.

"For (the wife) to say she did not own a car would be slightly disingenuous, even if legally true," Hoopes said.

Additionally, pension funds invest in stocks and bonds or other assets, Pennacchi said.

"Thus, it is inescapable that Mr. Biden’s wealth is both directly and indirectly linked to stock and bond investments," Pennacchi said.

Biden also holds four checking accounts, two of which he shares with his wife. In addition, he holds six life insurance policies with Mass Mutual. The Bidens reported an adjusted gross income of $407,099 last year, including his vice presidential salary of $230,700.

Our ruling

Biden said, "I don't own a single stock or bond... I have no savings accounts."

Biden was wrong to say that he doesn't have a savings account because he shares one with his wife. However, he doesn't have ownership over any stocks and bonds -- those all belong to his wife. We rate his statement Half True.

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Published: Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 at 11:41 a.m.

Subjects: Campaign Finance, Ethics, Income, Transparency

Sources:

Washington Post, "No, Joe Biden isn’t ‘Hillary Clinton’ Wealthy," June 23, 2014

Washington Post, "Joe Biden said he has ‘no savings account,’" June 23, 2014

Washington Times, "Biden one-ups ‘dead broke’ Hillary by boasting he’s ‘the poorest man in Congress,’" June 23, 2014

CBS, "Joe Biden doesn’t have a savings account?" June 23, 2014

PolitiFact, "We should all be so poor," August 27, 2008

U.S. Office of Government Ethics, OGE Form 278, accessed June 23, 2014

U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Biden’s 2013 executive branch personnel public financial disclosure report, May 12, 2014

White House, Biden’s 2013 Tax Returns, April 8, 2014

Email interview with Brian Mittendorf, accounting professor at Ohio State University, June 23, 2014

Email interview with Jeffrey Hoopes, accounting professor at Ohio State University, June 23, 2014

Email interview with George Pennacchi, finance professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, June 23, 2014

Email interview with Miriam Diemer, researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, June 23, 2014

Email interview with Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff, June 23, 2014

Written by: Lauren Carroll, Molly O'Connor
Researched by: Lauren Carroll, Molly O'Connor
Edited by: Angie Drobnic Holan

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