WHAT DO UNIONS DO TO PENSION PERFORMANCE?

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Abstract

Unions can have either positive or negative effects on risk-adjusted returns in pension plans. On the positive side, a union can improve monitoring of pension advisors and asset managers. On the negative side, the union may sacrifice returns by making investments that promote union goals. This paper discusses how the structure of the pension plan affects the union's ability and willingness to sacrifice returns to promote union goals. Using panel data on over 38,000 pension plans drawn from IRS Form 5500 filings between 1988 and 2008, we find the lowest performing plans are unionized multi-employer plans. Among defined contribution plans, the underperformance of multi-employer union plans disappears when the pension is controlled by individual participants. (JEL J32, J51)

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