Bridge over ocean
1 March 2007 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 63, Issue 2

FASB’s Quick Fix for Pension Accounting Is Only First Step

  1. C. Terry Grant
  2. Gerry H. Grant
  3. William R. Ortega

Hidden liabilities, understated expenses, and discretionary management assumptions make pension accounting controversial. Previous accounting standards allowed companies with underfunded pension plans to accumulate pension liabilities off the balance sheet while frequently reporting a net pension asset on the balance sheet. A new standard improves transparency by requiring that the pension’s funded status be reported on the balance sheet. In assessing the impact of the new standard, this study finds that it creates profound reductions in owners’ equity for many U.S.-listed companies. Pension cost smoothing and three primary pension assumptions—the expected rate of return on plan assets, discount rate, and expected rate of increase in employee compensation—continue to be controversial.

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