Corporate Pensions and Financial Distress
AFA 2015 Boston Meetings Paper
39 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 15, 2015
We examine the role of corporate pension plans in determining how firms restructure in financial distress. Both defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) plans can have significant exposures to the company’s own stock, imposing significant losses on employees if the firm defaults and/or files for bankruptcy. We find that firms with DB plans typically have little exposure to the stock prior to default; the degree of underfunding increases significantly as firms near default, but is not related to restructuring types (bankruptcies versus out of court restructurings). In contrast, large exposures to company stock in DC plans often are not reduced prior to default. High levels of own-company stock ownership are positively related to default and bankruptcy probabilities. Our evidence suggests a link between employee-ownership related managerial entrenchment and default risk.
Keywords: Financial distress; Pension plans; Company stock; Underfunding
JEL Classification: G33; G34; G38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation