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Economic Implications of ERISA

In: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System

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  • Jeremy I. Bulow
  • Myron S. Scholes
  • Peter Menell

Abstract

If the intent of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, ERISA, was to assure that beneficiaries of insolvent pension plans receive adequate pension benefits, sharp increases in nominal rates of interest have blunted that purpose. Without an increase in these rates, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, PBGC, the insurance agency established to guarantee benefits, faced large liabilities on the terminations of pension plans. We examine the economics of pension funds and the funding of pension funds before and after the enactment of ERISA. The Act changed the economics of pension funds. The PBGC, the employer, and the employees have interests in the assets of the pension plan. The PBGC can tax corporations to pay off liabilities and to fund guaranteed benefits; employers can terminate pension plans or overfund them; employees can ask for more benefits or claim the assets in the fund. Although the PBGC insures benefits, the insurance agent forbears, not acting quickly to protect its own interests. To prevent potential huge increases in its liabilities, the PBGC could require that employers hedge the guaranteed benefits, and fund their increases in promised benefits. Given its policies, these requirements could protect the PBGC.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven, 1983. "Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi83-1.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6027.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6027

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    References

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    1. Sharpe, William F., 1976. "Corporate pension funding policy," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 183-193, June.
    2. Martin Feldstein & Lawrence Summers, 1983. "Inflation and the Taxation of Capital Income in the Corporate Sector," NBER Chapters, in: Inflation, Tax Rules, and Capital Formation, pages 116-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Arnott, Richard J. & Gersovitz, Mark, 1980. "Corporate financial structure and the funding of private pension plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 231-247, April.
    4. Jeremy I. Bulow, 1979. "Analysis of Pension Funding Under Erisa," NBER Working Papers 0402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Feldstein, Martin & Seligman, Stephanie, 1981. "Pension Funding, Share Prices, and National Savings," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(4), pages 801-24, September.
    6. Irwin Tepper, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," NBER Working Papers 0661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Treynor, Jack L, 1977. "The Principles of Corporate Pension Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 627-38, May.
    8. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
    9. Tepper, Irwin, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(1), pages 1-13, March.
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    Cited by:
    1. Alan Marcus, 1987. "Corporate Pension Policy and the Value of PBGC Insurance," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 49-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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