This paper examines the role of the excess of the projected benefit obligation (PBO) over the accumulated benefit obligation (ABO) in hard pension freezes. Using a sample of 109 firms that announced hard freezes during the period 2003–2008, I find that firms with a larger excess of the PBO over the ABO are more likely to hard freeze their pension plans. Furthermore, I document an average abnormal return of more than 1.2 % on the announcement day for the freeze firms. More importantly, the cumulative abnormal returns around pension freeze announcements are positively associated with the excess of the PBO over the ABO, and this positive association is more pronounced for firms with a higher level of institutional ownership, suggesting that institutional investors are more likely to understand the impact of hard pension freezes on firm value by incorporating pension information disclosed in the footnotes. Overall, this study provides evidence that firms shift away from defined benefit plans through pension freezes, and also highlights the importance of considering the excess of the PBO over the ABO in research on hard pension freezes.
Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 5, 2014
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