Volume 12, No. 3

Pension Preview: The Return Of Joe Btfsplk?  The relentlessly negative market performance of the last three years has spooked investors, analysts and investment managers alike. In the last half of 2002, their fears deepened as they came to realize that not only were their own asset returns miserable, but so were the returns of pension plans all across corporate America. Because of the decline in general interest rates, pension plan obligations grew at the same time plan assets shrank - a compound world of hurt. Corporate sponsors faced the possibility of their plans being underfunded, after years of overfunded status. The possibility that firms might have to contribute real money to their defined benefit pension plans was reported by the financial press ad infinitum, ad nauseam, and in the minds of investors, pension plans morphed frompiggy bank to margin call. Concern over underfunded pension plans still hangs like a dark cloud over the stock market. In the upcoming annual reporting season, analysts and investors will be zeroing in on the pension disclosures with a zeal they've never before displayed. This report presents a look at the pension disclosures of some September and October year end firms to get a glimpse of just how much carnage was wrought by the 2002 market. More importantly, it presents some ways to cut through the clutter of less-useful information presented in the disclosures so users can get a better look at what the pension plans really mean to the sponsoring firm.

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