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401(k) Matching Contributions in Company Stock: Costs and Benefits for Firms and Workers

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  • Jeffrey R. Brown
  • Nellie Liang
  • Scott Weisbenner

Abstract

This paper examines why some employers provide matching contributions to 401(k) plans in company stock and explores the implications of match policy for employee retirement wealth. Unlike stock option grants to non-executives, a firm's decision to match in company stock does not appear to be strongly correlated with cash flow or with measures of the benefits of aligning incentives of employees and employers. Rather, we find evidence that firms are more likely to provide the match in company stock if firm risk is low (i.e. lower stock price volatility and lower bankruptcy risk) and employees are also covered by a defined benefit plan. These findings suggest that firms consider the retirement security of their workers in making the match decision, either because firms want to minimize the risk of violating their fiduciary responsibility or because employees more fully value company stock at companies with lower firm-specific risk. Evidence also indicates that firms may want to match in company stock to boost employee ownership, perhaps to help deter takeovers, or because of the tax advantages for dividends on the company stock match. Simulation results suggest that sufficiently risk-tolerant individuals actually prefer a 401(k) plan at a company with a company stock match to a plan at a company with an unrestricted match, unless the equity premium is reduced substantially.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10419.

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Date of creation: Apr 2004
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Publication status: published as Brown, Jeffrey R., Nellie Liang and Scott Weisbenner. "401(k) Matching Contributions In Company Stock: Costs And Benefits For Firms And Workers," Journal of Public Economics, 2006, v90(6-7,Aug), 1315-1346.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10419

Note: AG CF LS PE
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Cited by:
  1. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2006. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Savings Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Working Papers 12009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Liang, Nellie & Weisbenner, Scott, 2007. "Individual account investment options and portfolio choice: Behavioral lessons from 401(k) plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 1992-2013, November.
  3. Aubert, Nicolas & Garnotel, Guillaume & Lapied, André & Rousseau, Patrick, 2014. "Employee ownership: A theoretical and empirical investigation of management entrenchment vs. reward management," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 423-434.
  4. Hanen Maalej & Mohamed Triki, 2008. "Déterminants de la pratique de l'actionnariat salarié dans les entreprises françaises," Post-Print halshs-00525419, HAL.
  5. Djaoudath Alidou, 2011. "Les augmentations de capital réservées aux salariés en France - Employee Equity Issue:Evidence from France," Working Papers CREGO 1110603, Université de Bourgogne - CREGO EA7317 Centre de recherches en gestion des organisations.
  6. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2006. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 12447, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Douglas L. Kruse & Joseph R. Blasi & Rhokeun Park, 2010. "Shared Capitalism in the U.S. Economy: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Employee Views of Financial Participation in Enterprises," NBER Chapters, in: Shared Capitalism at Work: Employee Ownership, Profit and Gain Sharing, and Broad-based Stock Options, pages 41-75 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Elton, Edwin J. & Gruber, Martin J. & Blake, Christopher R., 2006. "The adequacy of investment choices offered by 401(k) plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1299-1314, August.

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