Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls

This is an interesting story on a number of levels, about the GM pension plan, its size, GM’s efforts to reduce the size of its liabilities, and the company’s decision to transfer administration and future costs to a certain extent to a large insurer. GM and its pension plan have continued to be one of the few public stories of a well-run pension plan that has largely stayed out of trouble and largely – at least from public view – maintained the company’s retirement compact with its salaried, non-union employees. That hasn’t stopped, however, the size, cost and complexity of the pension plan from impacting and taking attention away from GM’s actual reason for existing, which is to compete successfully as a car company. It is also worth noting how few well-run, well-regarded large private pension plans continue to exist out there. The combination of all three of these things – the rarity of such an example, the impact on a company of continuing to be such an example, and the desire of that example to get the heck out of the pension business – is as good a death knell for the private pension system as you can find.