Stricter pension accounting rules from the Financial Accounting Standards Board could cost billions for shareholders, HR company Towers Perrin said.

According to a study conducted by Towers Perrin, 78 of the Fortune 100 companies surveyed offered defined post-retirement benefit plans. These companies could see a $180 billion, or 9.3 percent, reduction in shareholders' equity.

The stricter rules are expected to be proposed by FASB in March. Phase One would likely occur in time for year-end 2006 financial reporting -- requiring companies to clean up balance sheets. Phase Two is expected to take longer, eventually forcing income statements to more accurately represent changes in the fair value of assets and liabilities from year to year.

The study also estimated that if the rules had been in effect for 2004, companies with pensions would have been forced to recognize $331 billion of liability on their balance sheets for the year, instead of the $62 billion that was actually recorded.

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