“It's not very often that a federal agency admits they made a mistake,” said PBGC Director Joshua Gotbaum.
But on April 3, that's exactly what happened. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. reversed course and proposed a new rule that will exempt as many as 90% of companies from having to disclose “reportable events” such as bankruptcies and mergers. A rule originally proposed in 2009 would have upped the reporting burden for defined benefit plans.
The increased availability of bankruptcy information and credit reporting, and an internal agency review that found little correlation between such reports and risk to pension plans, were key reasons for the change in course, along with a governmentwide push to ease regulatory burdens on business, Mr. Gotbaum said during a telephone news briefing. “Our goal is to encourage defined benefit plans, so we want to reduce the hassle for plan sponsors,” Mr. Gotbaum said.
“I think plan sponsors will appreciate the approach,” said Aliya Wong, executive director of retirement policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This is really an indication that (PBGC officials) have kind of come back. They are listening to plan sponsors,” she said.
The new proposal, which PBGC officials hope to finalize before 2014, would exempt companies that are financially sound, defined as a small business or in situations like bankruptcies for which information is readily available elsewhere. Companies not meeting those tests could still be exempt if their defined benefit plans are either 120% funded on an ongoing basis, or 100% funded on a termination basis.
The PBGC will also hold a public hearing on June 18 to gather more input on the proposal.