Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: Single-Employer Pension Insurance Program Faces Significant Long-Term Risks

GAO-03-873T Published: Sep 04, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 04, 2003.
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More than 34 million participants in 30,000 single-employer defined benefit pension plans rely on a federal insurance program managed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to protect their pension benefits, and the program's long-term financial viability is in doubt. Over the last decade, the program swung from a $3.6 billion accumulated deficit (liabilities exceeded assets), to a $10.1 billion accumulated surplus, and back to a $3.6 billion accumulated deficit, in 2002 dollars. Furthermore, despite a record $9 billion in estimated losses to the program in 2002, additional severe losses may be on the horizon. PBGC estimates that financially weak companies sponsor plans with $35 billion in unfunded benefits, which ultimately might become losses to the program. This testimony provides GAO's observations on the factors that contributed to recent changes in the single-employer pension insurance program's financial condition, risks to the program's long-term financial viability, and options to address the challenges facing the single-employer program.

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