Milliman USA released a study showing that 28 of the nations 50 largest corporations had pension shortfalls in 2001, compared with eight plans two years earlier. The study also shows that the 50 corporate plans collectively lost more than $140 billion nearly 90% of surplus pension assets between 1999 and 2001.
Corporations, on average, assumed about the same rate of return on pension assets in 2001 as they did in 2000, despite lower actual returns in 2000, the study showed. In eight cases, the corporations actually raised the assumed return on pension assets last year. The average assumed return on pension assets in 2001 was 9.39%, producing expected returns of more than $54 billion for the 50 funds, but in fact they collectively lost $36 billion. A one-percentage-point reduction in the assumed rate of return in 2001 would have hit corporate earnings by $5.7 billion for these 50 companies, the study noted.