Corporations more than tripled their pension contributions in 2002, to $33.6 billion from $9.2 billion in 2001, according to an analysis by consultant Milliman USA of the 100 largest pension funds annual financial statements. In many cases, the contributions helped companies minimize or eliminate a potential charge against shareholder equity because of declines in their pension assets. Some companies contributed more than they could claim as a tax deduction and also paid the 10% excise tax on excess contributions, said John W. Ehrhardt, Milliman principal and consulting actuary.
Still, the 100 corporate sponsors took a total hit of $81 billion against their shareholders equity at the end of 2002, a $63.5 billion increase from 2001, according to the Milliman analysis. And only 13 of the 100 companies still had surplus assets at the end of 2002, down from 40 in 2001. The 100 companies reported a combined pension deficit of $157 billion in 2002, up from a the $15 billion deficit a year earlier.