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What determines corporate pension fund risk-taking strategy?

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  • An, Heng
  • Huang, Zhaodan
  • Zhang, Ting

Abstract

Corporate sponsors of defined benefit pension plans generally assume low investment risk when they have low funding ratios and high default risk, consistent with the risk management hypothesis. However, for financially distressed sponsors and sponsors that freeze, terminate, or convert defined benefit to defined contribution plans, the risk-shifting incentive (moral hazard) dominates. Pension fund risk-taking is also affected by labor unionization and sponsor incentives to maximize tax benefits, restore financial slack, and justify the accounting choices of pension assumptions. Sponsors shift toward an aggressive risk strategy when their pension plans emerge from underfunding, bankruptcy risk is reduced, or marginal tax rate decreases. Overall, we show that corporate sponsors adopt a dynamic risk-taking strategy in their pension fund investments.

Suggested Citation

  • An, Heng & Huang, Zhaodan & Zhang, Ting, 2013. "What determines corporate pension fund risk-taking strategy?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 597-613.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jbfina:v:37:y:2013:i:2:p:597-613
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jbankfin.2012.09.018
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dirk Broeders & Arco van Oord & David Rijsbergen, 2015. "Scale economies in pension fund investments: A dissection of investment costs across asset classes," DNB Working Papers 474, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    2. Ebrahim, M. Shahid & Mathur, Ike & ap Gwilym, Rhys, 2014. "Integrating corporate ownership and pension fund structures: A general equilibrium approach," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 553-569.
    3. repec:eee:jimfin:v:84:y:2018:i:c:p:23-41 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Martijn Boermans & Rients Galema, 2017. "Pension funds carbon footprint and investment trade-offs," DNB Working Papers 554, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    5. Broeders, Dirk W.G.A. & van Oord, Arco & Rijsbergen, David R., 2016. "Scale economies in pension fund investments: A dissection of investment costs across asset classes," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 147-171.
    6. Platanakis, Emmanouil & Sutcliffe, Charles, 2016. "Pension scheme redesign and wealth redistribution between the members and sponsor: The USS rule change in October 2011," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 14-28.
    7. Wang, Yong & Mao, Connie X., 2015. "Shareholder activism of public pension funds: The political facet," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 138-152.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Defined benefit pension fund; Pension beta; Funding ratio; Form 5500; Risk shifting; Bankruptcy risk; Pension accounting;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance

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