Who will pay for existing, and accepted, practices that widen the gap between economic and accounting reality?
1. Taxpayers in the event of a bailout of PBGC?
2. Investors who see the value of their portfolio fall due to pension problems?
3. Employees who may lose benefits or even their jobs?
So if things are so bad, why isn't there more screaming in the streets?
Part of the seemingly benign response to one headline after another about the loss of pensions and other retirement benefits is that ownership of the issue is so diffuse.
Who is responsible for setting things right?
1. CEO's and CFO's who want as little as possible involvement regarding benefit-related decisions?
2. Attorneys who rally for damages in a court of law?
3. Congressional legislators who are often accused of doing too much too late?
4. Regulators who face limited resources and competing jurisdictions?
5. Employees who seldom feel they can make a difference?
6. Plan fiduciaries who may not even acknowledge themselves as such, let alone show that they carry out their duties willingly and effectively?
7. Auditors, actuaries, consultants?
Until true "owners" of the pension issue are identified and someone steps up to the plate (or they are forced to do so), the hot coals are likely to be passed from one party to the next.
Not a happy thought!