One-Third of Large Co.s Have Cut or Eliminated ESOP Holdings

August 16, 2007 ( - A third of the largest 900 companies (the Fortune 500 and the Russell 400) that had ESOPs in 2004 had reduced the stock held in the plan to zero or close to it by the end of the following year.

class=”fl”>That was the conclusion of an analysis by the  National Center  for Employee Ownership (NCEO), done as part of a project for the Heron Foundation and the Innovest Group, according to an NCEO news release.

The release said the data is based on an analysis of Form 5500 filings. If researchers found that the assets of an ESOP had moved into a master trust or 401(k) plan, they assumed the ESOP was still active, but functioned as part of another plan.

Overall, about 6% of the largest companies had ESOPs in 2005, all but 17 of which owned less than 5% of company stock.

“It is likely that the change is a direct result of concerns about legal fallout from the Enron, WorldCom, Rite Aid, and other “stock drop” lawsuits that began earlier in the decade,” NCEO said in the press release.