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Manchin cautious with his finances

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Sen. Joe Manchin sold a hefty stake in one local bank company last year, joining a number of other senators who became more cautious with their investments following the passage of the STOCK Act.

The U.S. Senate released its latest batch of financial disclosure reports last week. This round of filings was significant as it was the first batch released after implementation of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.

The 2012 law bans members of Congress and other government employees from using the non-public information they receive as part of their job for personal benefit.

The bill was a response to allegations that lawmakers used confidential financial information they received from banks during the financial crisis to sell their stocks before the market tanked.

The increased scrutiny has apparently led some to reconsider their investment strategies.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, a number of U.S. senators have moved away from owning shares of individual stocks, opting instead to creating blind trusts or putting money into mutual funds.

Manchin, D-W.Va., was one of four senators to create a blind trust last year, the paper reported.

The trust was created after Manchin sold a stake of $500,001 to $1 million in United Bancshares Inc. on July 16. Those funds were rolled over to create the blind trust, managed by Huntington National Bank, on Aug. 20.

(I say "$500,001 to $1 million" because congressional disclosure forms require candidates only to check the box for the particular range an asset is valued within - $1,000,001 to $5 million is another option - instead of listing the actual amount.)

Selling the United stock was a wise decision, since Manchin sits on the Senate Banking Committee and can help shape policy that affects banks' bottom line.

It should be noted that while Manchin sold his direct stake in United, his financial report shows that his wife, Gayle, still owns between $100,001 and $250,000 worth of stock in Fairmont-based MVB Financial Corp., parent company of MVB Bank.

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Since financial disclosure forms have such wide ranges for asset values, it's hard to pin down exactly how much lawmakers are worth. But it's safe to say Manchin is worth between $3 million and $12 million, give or take a buck or two.

Of course, he has a long way to go to match Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who according to the latest financial reports has a net worth of least $83 million.

That could be a lowball figure, too, since Rockefeller's chief asset, a JPMorganChase Bank family trust, is listed under the top generic value category of "Over $50 million."

The former governor's net worth has been estimated to be as high as $148 million - but who's counting?

While the Senate's financial disclosure reports were released last week, reports for members of the House of Representatives have not been filed yet.

Those reports are expected to be released next month.


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