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The Role of Company Stock in Defined Contribution Plans

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  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • Stephen P. Utkus

Abstract

This paper explores the risks and benefits of holding company stock in employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plans. We address three questions: (1) What is the role and function of company stock in such plans? (2) Who might be affected by enhanced portfolio diversification in such plans? and (3) What mechanisms exist, or might be developed, to enhance portfolio diversification if more diversification were deemed useful? Firms offer company stock within DC plans in an effort to enhance economic performance, though evidence is mixed on productivity gains from stock ownership. We demonstrate that concentrated stock positions arise most often in larger firms' DC plans where sponsors direct employer contributions and restrict diversification. Stock concentration also arises because participants systematically underestimate the risk of employer stock and over-rely on its past performance in making investment decisions. In a retirement system with concentrated stock positions, there will always be some participants who forfeit DC plan savings to firm bankruptcy. Encouraging plan diversification mitigates this risk, but it could also induce some companies to redirect plan contributions to other forms of stock compensation or to replace stock contributions with cash compensation. We conclude by describing policy tools that might be used to encourage diversification and discuss conditions for their effective implementation.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen P. Utkus, 2002. "The Role of Company Stock in Defined Contribution Plans," NBER Working Papers 9250, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9250
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    1. repec:wsi:qjfxxx:v:03:y:2013:i:03n04:n:s2010139213500110 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Steven J. Davis & Paul Willen, 2013. "Occupation-Level Income Shocks and Asset Returns: Their Covariance and Implications for Portfolio Choice," Quarterly Journal of Finance (QJF), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 3(03n04), pages 1-53.
    3. John M. Abowd & David S. Kaplan, 1999. "Executive Compensation: Six Questions That Need Answering," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 145-168, Fall.
    4. Joseph Blasi & Michael Conte & Douglas Kruse, 1996. "Employee Stock Ownership and Corporate Performance among Public Companies," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 50(1), pages 60-79, October.
    5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Working Papers 8655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Zoran Ivkovic & Paul A. Smith & Scott Weisbenner, 2004. "The geography of stock market participation: the influence of communities and local firms," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-22, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. James M. Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven F. Venti, 2005. "Utility Evaluation of Risk in Retirement Saving Accounts," NBER Chapters,in: Analyses in the Economics of Aging, pages 13-58 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Employee Stock Purchase Plans," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 385-406, June.
    4. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2007. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1920-1943 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andrew A. Samwick & Jonathan Skinner, 2004. "How Will 401(k) Pension Plans Affect Retirement Income?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 329-343, March.
    7. James M. Poterba, 2003. "Employer Stock and 401(k) Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 398-404, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance

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