OECD Working Papers on Insurance and Private Pensions

Selected studies on insurance and private pensions policy prepared for use within the OECD and addressing such policy issues as risk management, governance, types of investments, and benefit protection. This working papers series has been discontinued; it is superseded by ‘OECD Working Papers on Finance, Insurance and Private Pensions’ available via: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/20797117.


Benefit Protection

Priority Creditor Rights for Pension Funds

Underfunded pension funds are in the same position as other creditors when their sponsoring firm becomes insolvent, having to join the queue claiming the remaining assets of the firm. Arguments for granting pension fund priority rights over other creditors are the same as for introducing pension benefit guarantee schemes – i.e. market failure and diversification. Arguments against such a priority position focus around the impact on other creditors and potential disruptions to capital markets.

The OECD’s report on priority pension claims within bankruptcy found that pension claims (unlike wages) rarely receive priority over other creditors. More concerning, it can be difficult for pension fund creditors (being a diverse group without strong financing) to get their voice heard properly within insolvency procedures. Difficulties with providing such priority status to pension creditors stem from problems with changing bankruptcy laws and the strength of other financial creditors. The OECD’s report concludes that priority rights should be given to unpaid and due contributions from the plan sponsor and that care should be taken that pension beneficiaries be treated at least as well as other creditors in any bankruptcy or restructuring process (e.g. ensuring their representation on creditor committees).


Keywords: contribution, bankruptcy, underfunded, pension creditor, creditors, restructuring, priority right, pension fund, insolvent, funding rule
JEL: G23: Financial Economics / Financial Institutions and Services / Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors; J32: Labor and Demographic Economics / Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs / Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
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