This case examines the effect of pension income, as determined by the Statement of Financial Accounting Standard (SFAS) No. 87, on the quality of corporate earnings. Specifically, students are asked to interpret the pension footnote from IBM's 2001 Annual Report. Unlike many companies that indicate a cost associated with their pension plans, IBM reports pension income, not pension expense, for fiscal year 2001. An article in the Wall Street Journal referred to in the case reports that pension income boosted IBM's income before taxes by 13 percent in 2001. Through a series of questions, students are asked to analyze IBM's pension footnote and its effect on earnings. The purpose of this case is to enhance the learning process by reinforcing material learned from accounting texts with a real‐world application, to understand the effect of pension accounting on a company's quality of earnings, to illustrate that accounting standards occasionally include provisions that effectively mitigate potential earnings volatility, and to demonstrate that students need to question what they read in the financial press.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.