Buck Consultants Finds Executive Retirement Plans Alive and Well After Final IRS Rules

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An overwhelming majority of employers have no intention of terminating their nonqualified executive retirement plans as a result of final Internal Revenue Code rules governing these arrangements.

the size of obligation does not justify funding

An overwhelming majority of employers have no intention of terminating their nonqualified executive retirement plans as a result of final Internal Revenue Code rules governing these arrangements. This finding is among the results of a survey released today by Buck Consultants, an ACS company and one of the world's leading human resource and benefits consulting firms.

Buck's study, "2007 Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Survey,” was conducted after the IRS issued its final rules in 2007. The survey found 95 percent of respondents will retain their executive defined contribution plans and 89 percent will continue their executive defined benefit plans.

However, in response to the final rules -— named 409A after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that contains them —- approximately 30 percent of these nonqualified plans have been split into two parts, to take advantage of grandfathering provisions in the final rules.

“Benefits vested as of December 31, 2004 are grandfathered into the old deferred compensation rules,” said David Wax, principal in Buck's Talent Management and Rewards Strategies practice. “Many employers are taking advantage of this grandfathering by splitting their plans into two parts in order to preserve the flexibility of the pre-409A portion.”

Eighty organizations participated in the survey. Forty-four percent of respondents sponsor at least one nonqualified executive plan, and 14 percent offer five or more such arrangements. Respondents represent a broad range of industries and employer size.

Investment Choices

Seventy-three percent of respondents permit executives to choose from a menu of investments in their nonqualified defined contribution plans. Of those, another 73 percent offer the same investment choices (or a subset of investment choices) as offered in the 401(k) plan.

“One of the ways nonqualified plans have evolved recently is in the range of investment choices offered,” said Wax. “In the past, these arrangements provided only a fixed rate of return defined by the plan, or a limited investment choice.”

Funding

A majority (62 percent) of plan sponsors informally fund their executive defined contribution plans at 100 percent of pre-tax accrued liability using a rabbi trust. Only 19 percent report similar funding of executive defined benefit obligations. The primary reasons given for not funding nonqualified benefits are: “finding better uses for corporate cash” (69 percent); and “the size of obligation does not justify funding” (41 percent).

“This is another evolving area,” said Wax. “In the past, it was not uncommon for plan sponsors to avoid funding their plans. The benefits were paid out of corporate assets when due. Because the liabilities on these plans have gotten so large, however, we're seeing increased funding in order to demonstrate security to the participants.”

Among executive defined contribution plan sponsors, 47 percent favor the use of mutual funds as a funding mechanism, while sponsors of funded executive defined benefit plans generally prefer life insurance. The expected pre-tax return on funding assets is used as the primary metric for making funding decisions.

Fifty-two percent of sponsors have written policy statements governing the funding of executive defined contribution plan obligations, while only 33 percent of executive defined benefit plan sponsors have documented their funding policies.

Twenty percent of sponsors have never conducted a performance review of their funding programs for nonqualified plans. “This survey result suggests there is room for improvement in monitoring the performance of company assets that fund these plans,” said Peter Bell, a principal at Buck Consultants. “A well-written funding policy with performance objectives is not only good business practice, but also helps management understand why funding was established and what it is expected to deliver.”

Plan Design

Nonqualified defined benefit plans overwhelmingly use a final average pay formula (89 percent). Pay is defined as base salary plus annual incentive. Long-term incentives are rarely included in the determination of the benefit.

In nonqualified defined benefit plans, the most common service period used for full benefit accrual is 30 years (used by 36 percent of respondents).

The majority of nonqualified defined benefit plans provide unreduced benefits at age 65. However, 48 percent have plans that will pay unreduced benefits at an earlier age. Most plans (76 percent) permit participants to receive a reduced benefit at age 55.

Buck's study also addressed plan eligibility, participation, vesting, employer contributions, and payment of benefits.

Buck Consultants, an ACS company, is a leader in human resource and benefits consulting with more than 1,500 professionals worldwide. Founded in 1916 to advise clients in establishing and funding some of the nation's first public and private retirement programs, Buck is an innovator in the areas of retirement benefits, health and productivity programs, talent management and rewards strategies, and employee communication. News and other information about Buck Consultants are available at http://www.buckconsultants.com. Buck is an independent subsidiary of Affiliated Computer Services, Inc.

ACS, a global FORTUNE 500 company with more than 62,000 people supporting client operations reaching more than 100 countries, provides business process outsourcing and information technology solutions to world-class commercial and government clients. The company's Class A common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "ACS." ACS makes technology work. Visit ACS on the Internet at http://www.acs-inc.com.

Buck's survey report, “2007 Nonqualified Deferred Compensation,” is available to the media by contacting Ed Gadowski at 201-902-2825. It is available to other interested parties for $250 from Buck’s Global Survey Resources, 500 Plaza Drive, Secaucus, NJ, 07096-1533. Telephone 1-800-887-0509. It also can be ordered online at http://www.bucksurveys.com.

Media Contact:            
Ed Gadowski                    
Media Relations                
Buck Consultants                
201-902-2825                    
edward.gadowski @ buckconsultants.com

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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