A survey of 120 chief financial officers and comptrollers found that more than 80 percent of the executives are in favor of rules that would make it harder for bankrupt companies to turn over pension obligations to the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corp.
The proposed changes are still being debated in Congress, as the House and Senate weigh the merits of special pension exemptions for certain industries or even for specific companies. Other bill versions would require some companies to pay higher premiums to the PBGC.
Senior finance executives also believe companies should be held to a higher standard when it comes to accounting for their retirement liabilities. Nearly 90 percent of executives surveyed by Grant Thornton LLP said that companies should be required to account for pension plans on their balance sheet. John Hepp, a senior manager with the firm's National Professional Standards Group, said that the finding should be good news to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which recently issued an exposure draft seeking public comment on a proposal to accomplish just that. Critics have claimed that big changes in pension-plan accounting could spawn a wave of restatements
"This proposal may be less controversial than earlier FASB pension and post-retirement benefit standards because corporate pension information is already disclosed in the notes to the financial statements," Hepp said, in a statement.
Meanwhile, a study from the AFL-CIO union federation, titled "CEO Golden Years: The Top 25 Largest CEO Pensions," was released alongside the federation's new Executive PayWatch Web site, at www.paywatch.org. The average chief executive of an S&P 500 company made $11.75 million in total compensation in 2005, according to corporate-governance research group The Corporate Library, which is partnering with the AFL-CIO in the effort.
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