How Does the Funding Status of Defined Benefit Pension Plans Affect Investment Decisions of Firms in the United States?
40 Pages Posted: 27 May 2020
Date Written: January/February 2017
We investigate whether the flexibility in making contributions towards defined benefit pension plans sponsored by firms in the United States allows managers to save cash and increase investments. Firms invest more at higher levels of pension deficit, defined as pension benefit obligations less pension assets, and scaled by total assets. At the median level (90th percentile) of pension deficit, investments increase by 6.7 cents (9.4 cents) for every dollar increase in cash. As the pension deficit increases, firms deviate more from the predicted level of investment. These findings suggest that the incremental investments are more likely to represent overinvestment by managers. Our results are robust to alternative model specifications and endogeneity concerns that may arise if investments are jointly determined with the funding policy of pension plans and the firm's target cash level. We repeat our main analysis for the United Kingdom and also find for that country that, at a fixed cash level, total investment increases as pension deficit increases.
Keywords: investment, capital expenditure, R&D, acquisition, defined benefit pension plan, pension deficit, underfunded pension plan
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