IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/bla/joares/v55y2017i5p1213-1255.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Do Managers of U.S. Defined Benefit Pension Plan Sponsors Use Regulatory Freedom Strategically?

Author

Listed:
  • MICHAEL KISSER
  • JOHN KIFF
  • MAURICIO SOTO

Abstract

We use historical particularities of pension funding law to investigate whether managers of U.S. corporate defined benefit pension plan sponsors strategically use regulatory freedom to lower the reported value of pension liabilities, and hence required cash contributions. For some years, pension plans were required to estimate two liabilities—one with mandated discount rates and mortality assumptions, and another where these could be chosen freely. Using a sample of 11,963 plans, we find that the regulated liability exceeds the unregulated measure by 10% and the difference further increases for underfunded pension plans. Underfunded plans tend to assume substantially higher discount rates and lower life expectancy. The effect persists both in the cross‐section of plans and over time and it serves to reduce cash contributions. We further show that plan sponsor managers use the freed‐up cash for corporate investment and that credit risk is unlikely to explain the finding.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Kisser & John Kiff & Mauricio Soto, 2017. "Do Managers of U.S. Defined Benefit Pension Plan Sponsors Use Regulatory Freedom Strategically?," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(5), pages 1213-1255, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:joares:v:55:y:2017:i:5:p:1213-1255
    DOI: 10.1111/1475-679X.12182
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-679X.12182
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Anil Shivdasani & Irina Stefanescu, 2010. "How Do Pensions Affect Corporate Capital Structure Decisions?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(3), pages 1287-1323, March.
    2. Michael Kisser, 2013. "The Real Option Value of Cash," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 17(5), pages 1649-1697.
    3. Graham, John R. & Mills, Lillian F., 2008. "Using tax return data to simulate corporate marginal tax rates," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2-3), pages 366-388, December.
    4. Mittelstaedt, H. Fred, 1989. "An empirical analysis of the factors underlying the decision to remove excess assets from overfunded pension plans," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 399-418, November.
    5. Zvi Bodie & Jay O. Light & Randall Morck, 1987. "Funding and Asset Allocation in Corporate Pension Plans: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 15-48, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Sharpe, William F., 1976. "Corporate pension funding policy," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 183-193, June.
    7. William F. Sharpe, 1964. "Capital Asset Prices: A Theory Of Market Equilibrium Under Conditions Of Risk," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 19(3), pages 425-442, September.
    8. Paul Gompers & Joy Ishii & Andrew Metrick, 2003. "Corporate Governance and Equity Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 107-156.
    9. Mitchell A. Petersen, 2009. "Estimating Standard Errors in Finance Panel Data Sets: Comparing Approaches," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(1), pages 435-480, January.
    10. Franzoni, Francesco, 2009. "Underinvestment vs. overinvestment: Evidence from price reactions to pension contributions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3), pages 491-518, June.
    11. John C. Driscoll & Aart C. Kraay, 1998. "Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimation With Spatially Dependent Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(4), pages 549-560, November.
    12. Cocco, João F. & Volpin, Paolo F., 2013. "Corporate Pension Plans as Takeover Deterrents," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(4), pages 1119-1144, August.
    13. Francis, Jere R. & Reiter, Sara Ann, 1987. "Determinants of corporate pension funding strategy," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 35-59, April.
    14. Irwin Tepper, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," NBER Working Papers 0661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Tepper, Irwin, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(1), pages 1-13, March.
    16. Jeffrey R. Brown & David W. Wilcox, 2009. "Discounting State and Local Pension Liabilities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 538-542, May.
    17. Andrea Gamba & Alexander Triantis, 2008. "The Value of Financial Flexibility," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(5), pages 2263-2296, October.
    18. Thomas, Jacob K., 1988. "Corporate taxes and defined benefit pension plans," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 199-237, July.
    19. Francesco Franzoni & José M. Marín, 2006. "Pension Plan Funding and Stock Market Efficiency," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(2), pages 921-956, April.
    20. Mark T. Leary & Michael R. Roberts, 2005. "Do Firms Rebalance Their Capital Structures?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(6), pages 2575-2619, December.
    21. Leary, Mark T. & Roberts, Michael R., 2010. "The pecking order, debt capacity, and information asymmetry," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(3), pages 332-355, March.
    22. Robert Novy‐Marx & Joshua Rauh, 2011. "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(4), pages 1211-1249, August.
    23. Clinch, Greg & Shibano, Toshi, 1996. "Differential tax benefits and the pension reversion decision," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 69-106, February.
    24. Joshua D. Rauh, 2009. "Risk Shifting versus Risk Management: Investment Policy in Corporate Pension Plans," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(7), pages 2487-2533, July.
    25. Joshua D. Rauh, 2006. "Investment and Financing Constraints: Evidence from the Funding of Corporate Pension Plans," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(1), pages 33-71, February.
    26. Carter, Lawrence R. & Lee, Ronald D., 1992. "Modeling and forecasting US sex differentials in mortality," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 393-411, November.
    27. Mary Margaret Frank, 2002. "The Impact of Taxes on Corporate Defined Benefit Plan Asset Allocation," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(4), pages 1163-1190, September.
    28. Alicia H. Munnell & Mauricio Soto, 2007. "Why Are Companies Freezing Their Pensions?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2007-22, Center for Retirement Research, revised Dec 2007.
    29. Steven N. Kaplan & Luigi Zingales, 1997. "Do Investment-Cash Flow Sensitivities Provide Useful Measures of Financing Constraints?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 169-215.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Olexandr Yemelyanov & Anastasiya Symak & Tetyana Petrushka & Roman Lesyk & Lilia Lesyk, 2018. "Assessment of the Technological Changes Impact on the Sustainability of State Security System of Ukraine," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(4), pages 1-24, April.
    2. Michaelides, Alexander & Milidonis, Andreas & Papakyriakou, Panayiotis, 2019. "Corporate Pension Plan Funding Levels and Pension Assumptions," CEPR Discussion Papers 13591, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:joares:v:55:y:2017:i:5:p:1213-1255. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley Content Delivery). General contact details of provider: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0021-8456 .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.