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Against the backdrop of rising concerns over both public and private pension systems in the U.S., industry experts convened at a recent Wharton conference to debate ways in which retirement programs can be better managed. Participants discussed such topics as the problems facing Social Security, the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., and the consequences of an increase in defined contribution plans like 401(k)s along with a corresponding decline in defined benefit plans. The conference was titled "The Evolution of Risk and Reward Sharing in Retirement."
From: June 01, 2005
To the lengthening list of fallen executives, add one more: Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, legendary CEO of American International Group, was forced to step down March 14 as investigators look at whether the company used complex insurance transactions to improperly pad its bottom line. Greenberg's departure, after a four-decade reign that turned AIG from a sleepy also-ran into the world's biggest insurer, immediately raises questions about whether the company can stay on top -- or whether shareholders will suffer, as they have in so many corporate scandals.
From: June 01, 2005
When accounting problems at American International Group surfaced last winter, it looked like a small matter next to the corporation-busting scandals of the Enron era. But AIG directors acted as if the company's very survival was at stake, removing Maurice Greenberg as CEO and later forcing him to step down as chairman. The heart of the problem is this: No one can be sure how big the scandal will grow, because it involves business relationships, insurance products and accounting practices so arcane that few people understand them -- including a controversial product known as "finite insurance."
From: April 20, 2005
Before Hurricane Hugo swept through parts of the southern U.S. in 1989, the insurance industry had never suffered a loss of more than $1 billion from a single disaster. Since then, numerous catastrophes have exceeded that figure, even as development in danger zones continues to increase. It's a trend that emphasizes, as never before, the need to manage risk on both a national and a global scale. "People today are asking the question, 'How do we scientifically evaluate catastrophic risk?'" says Wharton's Howard Kunreuther, co-author -- along with Patricia Grossi -- of Catastrophe Modeling: A New Approach to Managing Risk.
The book analyzes the role of catastrophe modeling in developing risk management strategies to help reduce losses from future disasters, ranging from floods and hurricanes to environmental damage and terrorism.
From: April 06, 2005
The days when an executive could look forward to a leisurely retirement out on the golf course are over, thanks to a possible looming job shortage, a graying population, low savings rates and an insecure Social Security system. The impact of these factors on both workers and companies was the subject of the Symposium on Older Workers, co-sponsored recently by the AARP Global Aging Program along with Wharton's Center for Human Resources and Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research. Speakers included AARP CEO William D. Novelli, Olivia Mitchell, executive director of Wharton's Pension Research Council, and Thomas Dowd, a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor.
From: February 09, 2005
President Bush has launched his promised campaign to revamp Social Security, arguing that future funding shortfalls could be made up by allowing workers to put part of their contributions into investments under their own control. Opponents such as AARP, the organization for retired people, say his plan would destroy the 65-year old safety net, slashing benefits received by older Americans. Differences on the issue are so wide that the two sides cannot even agree on the threshold question: Is the Social Security system really in financial trouble?
From: January 26, 2005
Battered by a triple whammy of falling interest rates, a stalled stock market and an anemic economy, U.S. corporate pension plans face an estimated shortfall of $300 billion. The crisis, which affects mainly defined benefit plans, came to a head last week when the federal Government Accounting Office described the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a quasi-government insurer of last resort, as a "high risk" program. The Bush Administration is staking its credibility on finding a solution to the crisis, which affects some 43 million workers and retiree''''s. Experts at Wharton and elsewhere examine the causes of the crisis and the proposed solutions.
From: October 20, 2004
Chapter 11 filings by US Airways and United Airlines, and the possibility of other airlines following them into court, bring new attention to bankruptcy reorganization as a management strategy. For example, is bankruptcy a last-ditch effort to salvage a firm passing through a temporary rough patch, or is it a way to get rid of long-standing pension obligations to employees? Wharton professors and bankruptcy experts look at this issue and others, including the dangers that companies face during bankruptcy, and recent economic conditions that may push a growing number of firms into bankruptcy court.
From: October 06, 2004
United Airlines' proposal to halt payments to its pension funds suggests serious problems for the nation's pension-guarantee system, according to Wharton faculty and pension experts. The troubled airline, which declared bankruptcy in December 2002, said in July that it would stop funding its pension plans while it struggles to restructure under bankruptcy protection. The question is, how many other companies will renege on their pension obligations? And if the pension system collapses, will taxpayers foot the bill, just as they did for the S&L crisis in 1989?
From: September 08, 2004
The demographics of today’s workforce, employee expectations about retirement and the types of retirement options offered are all in a state of flux, making retirement policy a moving target for those charged with researching and administering pension plans. That was the message at a recent Wharton conference titled “Reinventing the Retirement Paradigm” co-hosted by Wharton’s The Pension Research Council. Experts from academia, government and industry debated what’s ahead for the baby boomers, and those coming up behind them.
From: June 16, 2004
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