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Footnotes Aren't Enough: The Impact of Pension Accounting on Stock Values

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  • Julia Coronado
  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • Steven A. Sharpe
  • S. Blake Nesbitt

Abstract

Some research has suggested that companies with defined benefit (DB) pensions are sometimes significantly misvalued by the market. This is because the measures of pension cost and pension net liabilities embedded in financial statements, taken at face value, can provide very misleading picture of pension finances. The more pertinent information on pension finances is relegated to footnotes, but might not receive much attention from portfolio managers. But dramatic swings in the financial conditions of large DB plans around the turn of the decade focused widespread attention on pension accounting practices, and dissatisfaction with current accounting standards has recently prompted the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to take up a project revamp DB pension accounting. Arguably, the increased attention should have made investors wise to the informational problems, thereby eliminating systematic mispricing in recent years. We test this proposition and conclude that investors continued to misvalue DB pensions, inducing sizable valuation errors in the stock of many companies. Our findings suggest that FASB's current reform efforts could substantially aid the market's ability to value firms with DB pensions.

Suggested Citation

  • Julia Coronado & Olivia S. Mitchell & Steven A. Sharpe & S. Blake Nesbitt, 2008. "Footnotes Aren't Enough: The Impact of Pension Accounting on Stock Values," NBER Working Papers 13726, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13726
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeremy I. Bulow & Randall Morck & Lawrence H. Summers, 1987. "How Does the Market Value Unfunded Pension Liabilities?," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 81-110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ian Tower & Gregorio Impavido, 2009. "How the Financial Crisis Affects Pensions and Insurance and Why the Impacts Matter," IMF Working Papers 2009/151, International Monetary Fund.
    2. Paul Klumpes & Mark Whittington & Yong Li, 2009. "Determinants of the Pension Curtailment Decisions of UK Firms," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(7-8), pages 899-924.
    3. Takafumi Sasaki, 2017. "Pension accruals and share prices: evidence from the amortization costs of transition amounts," Asia-Pacific Journal of Accounting & Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(1-2), pages 216-231, April.
    4. J. Adam Cobb, 2019. "Managing the Conflicting Interests of Workers and Shareholders: Evidence from Pension-Assumption Manipulations," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 72(3), pages 523-551, May.
    5. Ragland, Linda & Reck, Jacqueline L., 2016. "The effects of the method used to present a complex item on the face of a financial statement on nonprofessional investors' judgments," Advances in accounting, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 77-89.
    6. Paraskevi Kiosse & Ken Peasnell, 2009. "Have changes in pension accounting changed pension provision? A review of the evidence," Accounting and Business Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(3), pages 255-267.
    7. 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.
    8. Chen, Xuanjuan & Yao, Tong & Yu, Tong & Zhang, Ting, 2014. "Learning and incentive: A study on analyst response to pension underfunding," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 26-42.
    9. Paul Klumpes & Mark Whittington & Yong Li, 2009. "Determinants of the Pension Curtailment Decisions of UK Firms," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(7‐8), pages 899-924, September.
    10. Ana Isabel Morais, 2012. "Value relevance of alternative methods of accounting for actuarial gains and losses," International Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Performance Evaluation, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 8(1), pages 69-90.
    11. 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.).
    12. Ashby H. B. Monk, 2009. "Pension Buyouts: What Can We Learn From The UK Experience?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2009-19, Center for Retirement Research, revised Sep 2009.
    13. Karen C. Castro-González, 2012. "Portrait Of A Company: Defined Benefit Pension Plan Sponsors," Accounting & Taxation, The Institute for Business and Finance Research, vol. 4(1), pages 43-52.
    14. Karen C. Castro-González, 2012. "Information Content Of Changes In Pension Plan Funding Status And Long-Term Debt," The International Journal of Business and Finance Research, The Institute for Business and Finance Research, vol. 6(1), pages 1-14.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • 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
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J48 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Particular Labor Markets; Public Policy
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting
    • M48 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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