Rescue the DB plans: Why permanent corporate pension relief makes sense
In the debate over whether to extend unemployment benefits, Congress is considering using pension funding relief to help pay the cost. Extension of unemployment benefits may or may not be a good idea, but extension of pension relief certainly is.
Defined benefit pensions have faced tremendous pressure in recent years from the one-two punch of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and, more recently, historically low interest rates that were barely imaginable when that legislation was passed. The relief under consideration would alleviate some of that pressure, making plan sponsors less likely to shutter open schemes and raising revenue — all at the same time.
The PPA and related legislation required that corporations use a discount rate essentially equivalent to AA corporate bond levels to value their pension liabilities. The lower the rate, the higher the value of liabilities and underfunding. The law required corporations to amortize approximately one-seventh of thei