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Title: Defined benefit plan retentions and pension buy-ins/buy-outs : evidence from the UK
Author: Mitrou, Evisa
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 7680
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis consists of three self-contained papers on defined benefit (DB) pension provision in the United Kingdom (UK). In particular, in the first paper, I examine the effect that labour market incentives, managerial incentives and the adoption of FRS17 by UK firms, have on DB plan retention decisions. In this paper, I also examine the role of insider trustees, defined as trustees that are also company executives, on the firm’s decision to keep DB plans open. I find that firms for which human capital is especially important are more likely to retain their defined benefit plans. In addition, CEO and CFO membership in the same pension plan that is provided for other employees positively influences the retention of defined benefit pension plans. Additional analysis using a sub-sample for which data on pension plan trustees are available suggests that being a CEO and a trustee increases the probability of DB plan retentions. Moreover, being a CEO/CFO trustee and a member of the DB plan offered to all employees increases the likelihood of DB plan retention. However, I do not find any evidence that voluntary adoption of FRS 17 influences DB plan retention. In addition, I find that insider-trustees have a positive influence on the decision to maintain DB plans, especially when they are members of these plans. In the second paper, I look at the effect of DB plan retentions and executive membership in them, on corporate credit ratings and the investment and dividend decisions. Empirical findings suggest that firms which continue to sponsor DB plans are more likely to have lower credit ratings which are exacerbated when these plans are underfunded. Despite the above effect however, I find that if the CEO is a member of the DB plan, it positively affects credit ratings. In addition, I find some evidence that the participation of CEOs in the main DB plans in conjunction with overfunded pension plans, negatively affect investment decisions when these schemes remain open. I do not find any association between CEOs membership in the main DB plan and dividend payments which may be explained by the market signalling effects of dividends. Finally, in the third paper, I provide a thorough analysis of the pension buy-in and buy-out market in the UK, and I empirically examine the determinants of such transactions from a firm and plan perspective. I find that firms that implement buy-ins have larger and more funded pension plans, are more profitable and have higher union densities. Moreover, firms that complete buy-outs have larger pension plans and allocate less pension assets in equity. Moreover, the number of employees is negatively associated with both transactions implying it is costlier for firms to conduct either a buy-in or buy-out transaction. While union density is positively associated with buy-ins, it has a negative effect on the likelihood of buy-outs suggesting that unions support buy-in but not buy-out transactions. This may be potentially explained by the fact that the latter are associated with with plan winding-ups.
Supervisor: Paananen, Mari ; Kiosse, Vicky Sponsor: University of Exeter Business School
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: defined benefit plans ; pensions ; executive compensation ; accounting standards ; trustees ; credit ratings ; de-risking ; buy-ins ; buy-outs