In the wake of the global recession, which battered pension plan assets, Honeywell International changed its approach to managing its defined-benefit plan. Last November, the $36 billion manufacturing and technology company broke from the pack and said that it would begin to use mark-to-market accounting for the plan, which had obligations of about $19 billion at the end of 2010.

The company also contributed to the plan to boost its funded status, lowered the asset return assumption, from 9% to 8%, and began to reassess the pension plan's asset allocation.

Under mark-to-market accounting, Honeywell uses the fair value of the plan's assets and recognizes the plan's gains and losses in the year they are incurred, instead of amortizing them over a period of years. Previously it smoothed changes in the plan's assets over three years and amortized the gains and losses over six years, an amortization period that it says compared with the 10 to 12 years used by most of its peer-group companies.

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