Unfunded pension liabilities lower ratings of non-senior secured bonds but do not affect ratings of senior secured bonds due to their higher seniority. Pension funding improvement (deterioration) is associated with bond rating upgrade (downgrade). Moreover, large unfunded liabilities increase bond default risk and reduce the recovery rate of bondholders aftercontrolling for credit ratings, suggesting that bond ratings do not fully capture pension underfunding risk. Overall, our results highlight the important effects of unfunded pension obligations on bond ratings, default risk, and creditors’ payoff, and suggest that investors should look beyond bond ratings in making investment decisions.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ting-zhang/7/