Excess Asset Reversions and Shareholder Wealth

  • Author(s): MICHAEL J. ALDERSON, K. C. CHEN
  • Published: Apr 30, 2012
  • Pages: 225-241
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.1986.tb04501.x


The ownership of pension assets in a defined benefit pension plan is an unresolved issue in corporate finance. The issue is important because it defines the appropriate investment policy for a pension fund. In this paper, we summarize the ownership debate in the form of two mutually exclusive theories. We then focus on a recently popular event in pension finance, excess asset reversions. Our paper demonstrates the valuation effects associated with this event in a stochastic dominance framework. Under certain conditions, a reversion constitutes an expropriation of wealth from the participants and beneficiaries of the plan to the firm. Using data provided by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and the Center for Research in Security Prices tape, we examine the returns to the shareholders of 58 companies which conducted excess asset reversions between 1980 and 1984. Our results show that large abnormal returns accrued to these shareholders around the time of the reversion. These findings have implications both for the appropriate investment policy of pension funds and for public policy with respect to plan terminations.

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