The 'Crisis' in Defined Benefit Corporate Pension Liabilities: Current Solutions and Future Prospects

48 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2006

See all articles by Gordon L. Clark

Gordon L. Clark

Oxford University - Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment

Ashby H. B. Monk

Stanford University - Global Projects Center

Date Written: June 2006

Abstract

Once an integral component of company-sponsored compensation schemes in many western economies, private defined benefit (DB) pensions are in decline. For many, DB schemes (and their related health care liabilities, depending on the jurisdiction) have hobbled the financial well-being of plan sponsors and even whole sectors of industry. If a constraint on shareholder value in the short-term, these schemes threaten long-term corporate survival in the emerging global economy. While there remains considerable debate over the ability of financial markets to adequately price DB liabilities, there is a growing industry devoted to estimating their long-term risks with respect to longevity, inflation and cost. In this paper, we survey the nature and significance of the problem, focusing upon UK and US private employer sponsored plans. It is suggested that the crisis was apparent, for those willing to look, a decade ago. Its significance was papered-over by the 1990s stock market bubble and high interest rates but has returned through what many analysts identify as a perfect storm. Having documented the nature and scope of the perfect storm, we also evaluate proffered solutions to the crisis, such as financial engineering, government intervention, and private sector negotiation. In the final sections of the paper, we set-out the principles that should guide the design of new kinds of employer sponsored plans noting that if, as suggested by many experts, western economies are entering an era of increasing labor shortage, private pensions will continue to have an important role in managing human capital.

Keywords: Pension, Pension Liability, Defined Benefit, Pension Reform, Financial Institutions, Pension Policy, Pension Crisis

JEL Classification: G20, G33, J50

Suggested Citation

Clark, Gordon L. and Monk, Ashby H. B., The 'Crisis' in Defined Benefit Corporate Pension Liabilities: Current Solutions and Future Prospects (June 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=907291 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.907291

Gordon L. Clark

Oxford University - Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment ( email )

South Parks Road
Oxford, OX1 3QY
United Kingdom
+44 1865 285197 (Phone)
+44 1865 285073 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/staff/glclark.html

Ashby H. B. Monk (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Global Projects Center ( email )

United States

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