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May 13, 2005

Does the United Airlines' Pension Plans' Termination Increase the PBGC Deficit?

united.gifThere Is Little Impact Actuaries' Fact Sheet Explains

A fact sheet released today by the American Academy of Actuaries explains how the termination of United Airlines' (UAL) pension plans as part of its bankruptcy proceedings will impact the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federal agency that insures defined benefit pension plans. Contrary to some reports in the media, the termination of UAL's pension plans will likely not increase the PBGC's projected deficit, and may even help to reduce it.

"The PBGC already included United Airlines' pension plans as a 'probable termination' in its 2004 annual report. That means the termination of the plans will have no appreciable impact on the PBGC's deficit," said Ron Gebhardtsbauer, senior pension fellow at the American Academy of Actuaries. "In fact, the $1.5 billion in securities the PBGC may receive as part of the termination agreement could help to reduce the PBGC's deficit."

According to the PBGC's 2004 annual report, it had a $23.3 billion deficit, which included $16.9 billion for probable terminations. "The PBGC had the foresight to include the liabilities it has assumed from United Airlines' pension plans in its deficit projections," said Gebhardtsbauer.

The Academy has proposed a series of legislative and regulatory reforms to strengthen the defined benefit pension system. For further information go to the Academy website at http://www.actuary.org.

The American Academy of Actuaries is the nonpartisan public policy organization for the U.S. actuarial profession. The Academy provides independent analysis to elected officials and regulators, maintains professional standards for all actuaries, and communicates the value of actuarial work to the media and the public.

The following is the fact sheet on PBGC and United Airlines:

PBGC and United Airlines

How does United's termination affect the PBGC deficit?

The American Academy of Actuaries(1) Pension Practice Council provides this educational fact sheet to discuss recent statements regarding the termination of United Airlines' pension plans and the impact that termination will have on the financial situation of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp (PBGC).


On May 10, a bankruptcy judge approved United Airlines' request to terminate its pension plans. The PBGC will take over the UAL pension plans. In return, the PBGC may receive up to approximately $1.5 billion in securities for the reorganized airline.

United's total unfunded accrued benefits: $9.8 billion

United's unfunded guaranteed benefits: $6.6 billion

The PBGC does not take on the total amount of unfunded accrued benefits, which in United's case is $9.8 billion. It will not pay the $3.2 billion in nonguaranteed benefits, which consists of certain benefits above the maximum guaranteed and recent benefit improvements that have not be fully phased-in. The maximum guaranteed benefit for plans terminated in 2005 is $3801.14 per month (or $45,613.68 per year) for a worker retiring at age 65. There is a lower guarantee for those individuals who retire early or if there is a benefit for a survivor.

Total unfunded accrued benefits: $ 9.8 billion
Non-guaranteed benefits: - $ 3.2 billion
Unfunded guaranteed benefits: $ 6.6 billion

PBGC's deficit according to their 2004 Annual Report was $23.3 billion, which included United's plans

The PBGC includes, in their deficit, certain probable terminations (i.e., companies for which PBGC anticipates taking over pension plans in the near future). In its 2004 annual report, the PBGC included $16.9 billion for certain probable terminations, which included United Airlines' unfunded guaranteed benefits. Therefore, despite some reports to the contrary, PBGC's deficit does not increase with United's termination. In fact, the $1.5 billion in securities from UAL could decrease the PBGC deficit.

1. The American Academy of Actuaries is the public policy organization for actuaries of all specialties within the United States. In addition to setting qualification standards and standards of actuarial practice, a major purpose of the Academy is to act as the public information organization for the profession. The Academy is nonpartisan and assists the public policy process through the presentation of clear, objective analysis. The Academy regularly prepares testimony for Congress, provides information to federal elected officials and congressional staff, comments on proposed federal regulations, and works closely with state officials on issues related to insurance

Source: American Academy of Actuaries

Posted by Tom Troceen