POBs = Bankers As Pushers

Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs) do NOT reduce pension obligations.

POBs would be a truthful title if the bonds actually reduced pension obligations. But they don’t. All they do is increase pension assets, which produces an accounting benefit (more assets — the same liabilities = a lower unfunded liability). Economically, a POB is no more than a “carry trade,” which is borrowing at a low rate to bet on hopefully-higher-yielding assets (e.g. stocks, private equity, hedge funds, etc). Not surprisingly, Wall Street also sells and manages those products.

When the smoke clears, a POB issuer has (i) the same pension obligations it had before, (ii) more debt, (iii) paid investment banking fees, and (iv) gambled the proceeds on products that beget even more fees for bankers.

POBs are meritless products deliberately misnamed by bankers in search of fees. Just say no.

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California