Beware the Pension Monster - “even though pension plan assets do not belong to shareholders (they are the legal entitlement of a company’s current and future retirees), accounting rules nonetheless require companies to book the gains and losses on those pension assets in reported earnings. Up until recently, not too many companies were complaining about that quirk in the rules. Back in the heady days of the stock market bubble, pension surpluses bolstered many a bottom line. In 2000, for example, pension gains accounted for $1.74 billion, or 9%, of GE’s pretax earnings. IBM’s pension plan contributed $1.2 billion–more than 10% of its earnings. But now, as once-overfunded plans become underfunded, pen- sion income is being replaced by pension expense.”