Carpenter Technology Latest to Jump on De-Risking Train

Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...

By Kristen Ricaurte Knebel

Sept. 14 — Carpenter Technology Corp. joined the parade and decided it’s time to get out of the defined benefit pension plan game.

The company announced Sept. 14 that it is freezing its defined benefit plan and moving participants to the 401(k) plan. The defined benefit plan was closed to new entrants in 2012. The company said it expects up to a $45 million reduction in its annual net pension expense as a result of the move.

Pension plan de-risking—whereby employers take actions designed to reduce or eliminate the pension plan liability on their balance sheets—has become an increasingly popular transaction in recent years. Some blame the rising premiums that must be paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation for the moves plans are making with their defined benefit plans. Other observers cite the impending changes to the Internal Revenue Service’s mortality tables that could hike pension funding liabilities by as much as 10 percent.

Forms of de-risking include offering lump-sum payments to participants or transferring liabilities to a third-party insurer that makes benefit payments on behalf of the employer. In the past month, HP Inc., Briggs & Stratton Corp., and TJX Cos. have offered lump-sum payouts to current and former employees and Scholastic Corp. announced it was closing its cash balance pension plan.

In a 2015 survey on pension plan de-risking from Prudential Financial Inc., one-quarter of private plans said they’re considering transferring risk to a third-party insurer.

Mercer’s 2015 Pension Risk Survey found that 49 percent of executives said they’re “likely” or “very likely” to consider lump-sum de-risking transactions “in the near term” and 36 percent said they were “likely” or “very likely” to consider annuity transfers.

De-risking practices have been a source of concern for the Obama administration. The Labor Department’s ERISA Advisory Council examined the issue last year and the Treasury Department issued guidance that stopped the offer of lump-sum pension payments in lieu of annuities for participants already in pay status.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Ricaurte Knebel in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at

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