Managerial Ownership and Termination of Overfunded Pension Plans associated with Financial Weakness

Zahid Iqbal (Texas Southern University)
Shekar Shetty (Henderson State University)
Joseph Haley (Texas Southern University)
Maliyakkal Jayakumar (University of North Texas)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Publication date: 1 August 1997


Terminations of overfunded pension plans may strengthen a financially‐weak firm. When manager's interests are aligned with shareholder's, either through high levels of stock ownership, or through labor and takeover market discipline at low levels of ownership, termination strengthens the firm and the stock price should react positively. In contrast, managers at middle levels of ownership hold enough stock to be entrenched, but not enough to be aligned with shareholder interests. Terminations may then be for reasons other than strengthening a financially‐weak firm and may not generate a positive stock price reaction. We find that the financial incentives for terminations differ significantly between terminators and nonterminators at high and low levels of managerial ownership, but not at intermediate levels. Our stock return analysis indicates that terminations by high and low ownership firms are consistent with shareholder welfare. Concern has been expressed that terminations of defined benefit pension plans transfer wealth from plan participants to plan sponsors. Plan terminations can have a value‐maximizing motive when the reversions are used as a source of financing, thereby helping firms avoid bankruptcy and liquidation. The empirical evidence (e.g., Alderson and VanDerhei (1992), VanDerhei (1987), and Hsieh, Ferris, and Chen (1990)) showing favorable stock price reactions to terminations by financially‐weak firms are consistent with the value‐maximizing justification for plan terminations. Prior studies (e.g., Agrawal and Mandelker (1987), Kim and Sorensen (1986), Sicherman and Pettway (1987), Hill and Snell (1989), Benston (1985), Morck, Shleifer, and Vishny (1988), Carter and Stover (1991) and Hermalin and Weisbach (1991)) have also documented that management's ownership interest in the firm has an important effect on the incentive to maximize firm value. This paper examines the effect of managerial ownership on financial termination. Specifically, we address whether or not financial motivation to terminate plans exists at all levels of managerial ownership. Our results suggest that the terminating firms, when compared to the nonterminating firms, are financially weak at high and low levels of managerial ownership. In contrast, there is no significant difference in financial weakness between the terminators and the nonterminators at the middle ownership levels. Also, stockholders reactions to terminations are higher at high and low levels of managerial ownership.


Iqbal, Z., Shetty, S., Haley, J. and Jayakumar, M. (1997), "Managerial Ownership and Termination of Overfunded Pension Plans associated with Financial Weakness", Managerial Finance, Vol. 23 No. 8, pp. 57-66.

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Copyright © 1997, MCB UP Limited

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