25l: Pension liabilities and General Motors

Back when General Motors was failing, some critics blasted GM (and the investment analysts covering GM) for not being forthright about its pension obligations. The accusation went that GM had a unionized labor force that had bullied management into some big pension promises, and that the acturial value of these promises were not reflected in the financial statements.

Chapter 25 of the Schweser book says that net income isn’t supposed to include adjuststments for minimum pension liability.

So was the public being fair in its criticism or was GM’s financial reporting in line with GAAP and other accounting standards?

Without digging into the details of GM’s financial statement, I’d imagine that the discount rate that they were using for their pension liability was too high, so they understated the present value of the liability on their balance sheet.