Mercer Human Resource Consulting urged lawmakers participating in the House-Senate negotiations to complete the pending pension bill as soon as possible. Asghar Alam, the head of Mercer's retirement practice, told members of the conference committee in a letter: "We know that you and your staff appreciate the fact that a deadline for upcoming pension contributions is fast approaching on April 15, 2004. Yet the real deadline for companies sponsoring pension plans may be even sooner than you know."
Once the law is enacted, the Treasury Department will still have to compute an interest rate based on corporate bonds for pension plan sponsors to use in calculating their liabilities, and corporate actuaries will need time to figure out contributions. If a bill isn't passed soon, companies could be in danger of failing to meet the contribution deadline, contributing too little or making contributions that are not deductible, according to Mr. Alam.