AT&T Plans $2.7 Billion Charge

AT&T Inc. will take a pretax charge of about $2.7 billion in the fourth quarter in a move to simplify how it accounts for pension and other post-retirement benefits.

The Dallas-based telecommunications company said Thursday it would now recognize gains and losses in the year in which they are incurred, using a practice called mark-to-market accounting, rather than spread them out over several years.

The accounting change clarifies one of the more volatile aspects of a large employer’s financial results, better tying performance to the current economic state. It would eliminate the “smoothing out” of gains and losses over several years. Under the old system, some of the pension-plan losses recorded during the stock market decline in 2008 would still be on the books for 2010.

AT&T joins a number of large U.S. corporations including Honeywell International, General Electric Co. and International Business Machines Corp. in revamping pension-accounting practices.

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