Companies are free to tackle their hefty pension obligations through a controversial method involving one-time, lump-sum payouts to retirees and beneficiaries, the Treasury Department says.

That could help companies like General Electric Co., now struggling with a nearly $30 billion shortfall in its defined-benefit pension plan.

The notice issued Wednesday says that the agency doesn't plan to follow through on a 2015 pledge, made during the Obama administration, to formally outlaw the method. In the wake of that pledge, many companies had stopped offering retirees a one-time lump sum payment, and stuck instead to traditional monthly annuity payments.

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