Pension Pain
Economist (07/11/03) Vol. 368, No. 8331 p.5; Blassingame, Kelley M.

Between 2000 and 2002, the assets of U.S. corporate and public pension funds and endowment funds fell in value by over $1 trillion, according to Greenwich Associates, which also notes that, by the start of 2002, almost 30 percent of corporate pension plans in the United States were in a deficit. Regulators in both the United States and Britain have taken measures to reduce the volatility of pension plans by forcing companies to disclose their pension assets and liabilities, and many pension plans are opting to alter the allocation of the assets in hopes of reducing their pension losses. While experts agree that accounting tactics have allowed companies to avoid facing their pension liabilities for many years, investors and pension trustees are looking for someone to blame for their pension problems. Pension funds have charged their fund managers for causing the problem, but fund managers maintain that they have no real power. They argue that since most pension fund trustees are not financial experts, but workforce and company representatives, they lack the financial expertise to make complicated pension asset decisions and instead rely heavily upon the advice they receive from pension-fund consultants.


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