Here’s more proof that the bull market is officially over.

For years, corporations have sat on overfunded pension funds thanks to stock prices that rose much more than actuaries had predicted. In fact, corporate raiders even tried to get their shark fins on this stash.

Alas, now after more than two years of plumeting stock prices, companies are starting to worry that their pension plans are underfunded.

According to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., unfunded pension liabilities for private companies more than quadrupled to $111 billion at the end of 2001 from $26 billion in 2000.

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However, it’s not time to worry just yet. “This is not really a measure of the health of pension plans or the PBGC,” said corporation spokesman Jeffrey Speicher in a published report. He said most of the liability increases occurred among large pension plans that remain 80 percent to 100 percent funded, and “there are very few cases of plans that are that well funded being terminated.”

“To say this is some dire alarm is false,” said James Delaplane, vice president of retirement policy for the American Benefits Council, which represents employers on employee benefits issues, in the same wire service report.

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