Modernizing pension fund legal standards for the twenty-first century

Keith L. Johnson, Frank Jan De Graaf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


I made the mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity of the firm. Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Alan Greenspan, at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government ReformIn other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working. Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman Absolutely, precisely. Greenspan Introduction The growth of pension funds and retirement savings over the last three decades into a huge global block of capital has dramatically changed the effect that pension investment practices have on the global economy. Prevailing interpretations of fiduciary duty have encouraged this pension fund capital block to “herd” around similar investment practices that have become focused on the short term. This “lemming” behavior has contributed to the severity of economic booms and busts. It has also destroyed long-term economic value, transferred wealth from younger to older pension fund participants and raised questions about compliance with the fiduciary duty of impartiality. This chapter argues for a modernized interpretation of fiduciary duty that recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the sustainable success of both corporations and pension funds. It describes the impact that pension investment practices have on both the well-being of fund participants and health of the global economy. It also argues that fiduciaries should adopt pension fund governance practices found to be associated with improved investment performance, better align pension fund service provider incentives with the clients’ long-term interests and expand risk identification and management practices to consider systemic and extra-financial factors that contributed to the current financial crisis. The authors recommend development of pension fund governance best practice guidelines, combined with adoption of a “comply or explain” reporting scheme, as a way to improve the ability of pension managers to meet their fiduciary obligations and promote economic stability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Embedded Firm
Subtitle of host publicationCorporate Governance, Labor, and Finance Capitalism
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780511794537
ISBN (Print)9781107006010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


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