Volume 21, No. 13

Unexplored Obligations: Other Postretirement Benefits, Pt. 2:  In our previous report, the weirdly contradictory income statement reporting for other postretirement benefits was reviewed. While firms report declining significance of these costs to their overall performance - in some cases, even reporting negative costs - their cash costs usually far exceed their reported cost. It’s a case study of unintended consequences. Performance measures can be giving investors a false reading on how a firm is really doing, and remedies were presented.

The balance sheet aspects of other postretirement benefits are explored in this report. Management efforts have contained the growth of the other postretirement benefit plans, and their effect on firms’ capital structure is not as awe-inspiring as it once was. Yet while they’ve become tamer, it’s worth examining the underlying assumptions built into the other postretirement benefit obligations. Some of the assumptions built into the accounting model don’t always seem to hold up when you examine them over the long run.

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