Wednesday, January 18, 2006


"Many [US] companies freezing pensions say they are bolstering 401(k) plans, making set contributions while leaving workers to manage for their own retirement. Small firms started the trend, but in the past year some large employers followed suit in freezing pensions for at least some of their workers, including Sears Holding Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Pensions and other retirement benefits have stirred controversy in accounting circles for years. Critics say while companies made expensive promises to workers, accounting rules let them engage in a shell game and mislead investors about the value of stocks, bonds and other assets held by pension plans. While they can fluctuate widely, the rules let companies smooth the numbers, creating distortions in their balance sheets that can make a whopping liability look like a sizable asset."


"According to Labor Department figures, the 29,651 companies that offer single employer private pension plans underfunded their pension liabilities last year by $450 billion."


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