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Guaranteed Trouble: The Economic Effects of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

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  • Jeffrey R. Brown

Abstract

This paper examines the economic rationale for, historical experience of, and current pressures facing the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The PBGC is the government entity which partially insures participants in private-sector defined benefit pension plans against the loss of pension benefits in the event that the plan sponsor experiences financial distress and has an under-funded pension plan. The paper discusses three major flaws of the PBGC, namely, that the PBGC has: 1) failed to properly price insurance and thus encouraged excessive risk-taking by plan sponsors; 2) failed to promote adequate funding of pension obligations; and 3) failed to promote sufficient information disclosure to market participants. The paper then discusses potential ways to reform the PBGC so that it operates more in concert with basic economic principles.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey R. Brown, 2007. "Guaranteed Trouble: The Economic Effects of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation," NBER Working Papers 13438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13438
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Julia Lynn Coronado & Steven A. Sharpe, 2003. "Did Pension Plan Accounting Contribute to a Stock Market Bubble?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 323-371.
    2. Thomas Davidoff & Jeffrey R. Brown & Peter A. Diamond, 2005. "Annuities and Individual Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1573-1590, December.
    3. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2008. "Guaranteed Trouble: The Economic Effects of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 177-198, Winter.
    4. Deborah Lucas, 2007. "Valuing & Hedging: Defined Benefit Pension Obligations - The Role of Stocks Revisited," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2006 169, Money Macro and Finance Research Group.
    5. Pennacchi, George, 2006. "Deposit insurance, bank regulation, and financial system risks," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-30, January.
    6. Zvi Bodie, 2006. "On asset-liability matching and federal deposit and pension insurance," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 323-330.
    7. Jeremy I. Bulow & Myron S. Scholes, 1983. "Who Owns the Assets in a Defined-Benefit Pension Plan?," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 17-36 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Pesando, James E, 1982. " Investment Risk, Bankruptcy Risk, and Pension Reform in Canada," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 37(3), pages 741-749, June.
    9. 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.
    10. Zvi Bodie, 1988. "Pension Fund Investment Policy," NBER Working Papers 2752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-1284, December.
    12. Jeremy I. Bulow, 1982. "What are Corporate Pension Liabilities?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(3), pages 435-452.
    13. Sharpe, William F., 1976. "Corporate pension funding policy," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 183-193, June.
    14. David W. Wilcox, 2006. "Reforming the Defined-Benefit Pension System," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(1), pages 235-304.
    15. Jeremy Gold & Nick Hudson, 2003. "Creating Value In Pension Plans (Or, Gentlemen Prefer Bonds)," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 15(4), pages 51-57.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2008. "Guaranteed Trouble: The Economic Effects of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 177-198, Winter.
    2. Thomas Crossley & Mario Jametti, 2013. "Pension Benefit Insurance and Pension Plan Portfolio Choice," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 337-341, March.
    3. Cory Koedel & Shawn Ni & Michael Podgursky, 2014. "Who Benefits from Pension Enhancements?," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 9(2), pages 165-192, March.
    4. Mario Jametti, 2008. "Underfunding of Defined Benefit Pension Plans and Benefit Guarantee Insurance: An Overview of Theory and Evidence," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 34(s1), pages 39-46, November.
    5. David A. Love & Paul A. Smith & David W. Wilcox, 2009. "Should risky firms offer risk-free DB pensions?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    6. repec:oup:rcorpf:v:1:y:2012:i:1:p:28-67. is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Chen, An, 2011. "A risk-based model for the valuation of pension insurance," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 401-409.
    8. Vincent Touzé, 2011. "Le financement des retraites aux États-Unis. Impact de la crise et tendances de long terme," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(3), pages 63-112.
    9. Chen, An & Uzelac, Filip, 2014. "A risk-based premium: What does it mean for DB plan sponsors?," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 1-11.
    10. Efraim Benmelech & Nittai K. Bergman & Ricardo J. Enriquez, 2012. "Negotiating with Labor under Financial Distress," Review of Corporate Finance Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 28-67.
    11. Haitao Yin & Howard Kunreuther & Matthew W. White, 2011. "Risk-Based Pricing and Risk-Reducing Effort: Does the Private Insurance Market Reduce Environmental Accidents?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(2), pages 325-363.
    12. Haitao Yin & Howard Kunreuther & Matthew White, 2009. "Risk-Based Pricing and Risk-Reducing Effort: Does the Private Insurance Market Reduce Environmental Accidents?," NBER Working Papers 15100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Love, David A. & Smith, Paul A. & Wilcox, David W., 2011. "The effect of regulation on optimal corporate pension risk," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(1), pages 18-35, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm

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