Pay Me Now (and Later): Pension Benefit Manipulation before Plan Freezes and Executive Retirement
52 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2016 Last revised: 23 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 15, 2016
Large U.S. firms modify top executives’ compensation before pension-related events. Top executives receive one-time increases in pensionable earnings through higher annual bonuses one year before a plan freeze and one year before retirement. Firms also boost pension payouts by lowering plan discount rates when top executives are eligible to retire with lump-sum benefit distributions. Increases in executive pensions do not appear to be an attempt to improve managerial effort or retention, and are more likely to occur at firms with poor corporate governance. These findings suggest that in some circumstances managers are able to extract rents through their pension plans.
Keywords: Corporate governance; Executive annual bonuses; Defined benefit pension plans; Pension freezes; Executive retirement
JEL Classification: G31; G32; G34; M40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation