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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.
    2. 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.
    3. Irwin Tepper, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," NBER Working Papers 0661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Martin Feldstein & Randall Morck, 1983. "Pension Funding Decisions, Interest Rate Assumptions, and Share Prices," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 177-210 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Francesco Franzoni & José M. Marin, 2005. "Portable Alphas from Pension Mispricing," Working Papers 227, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    6. 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.
    7. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1987. "Issues in Pension Economics," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi87-1.
    8. Sharpe, William F., 1976. "Corporate pension funding policy," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 183-193, June.
    9. Tepper, Irwin, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(1), pages 1-13, March.
    10. Feldstein, Martin & Seligman, Stephanie, 1981. "Pension Funding, Share Prices, and National Savings," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(4), pages 801-824, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. repec:eee:advacc:v:34:y:2016:i:c:p:77-89 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. 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.).
    5. 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:

    • 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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