Guaranteed Trouble: The Economic Effects of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

Jeffrey R. Brown

NBER Working Paper No. 13438
Issued in September 2007
NBER Program(s):   AG   PE

This paper examines the economic rationale for, historical experience of, and current pressures facing the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The PBGC is the government entity which partially insures participants in private-sector defined benefit pension plans against the loss of pension benefits in the event that the plan sponsor experiences financial distress and has an under-funded pension plan. The paper discusses three major flaws of the PBGC, namely, that the PBGC has: 1) failed to properly price insurance and thus encouraged excessive risk-taking by plan sponsors; 2) failed to promote adequate funding of pension obligations; and 3) failed to promote sufficient information disclosure to market participants. The paper then discusses potential ways to reform the PBGC so that it operates more in concert with basic economic principles.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13438

Published: Jeffrey R. Brown, 2008. "Guaranteed Trouble: The Economic Effects of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 177-198, Winter. citation courtesy of

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