Defined benefit pension plans have had a string of bad luck. Since their peak in the mid-1980s, they have been on the decline as more employers close or freeze their plans each year. Is there a chance for a comeback?\nIn the 1990s, the robust stock market kept defined benefit plans well-funded, without the need for hefty contributions from the organizations sponsoring them. When things were going well, "these plans were out of sight, out of mind," says Bart Pushaw, a principal and consulting actuary with Milliman Inc. in Dallas. "Finance people did not need to pay much attention until suddenly pension plans became the squeaky wheel."\nThen the dot-com bust and the accompanying stock market decline caused plan assets to take a hit. That was followed by years of low interest rates, which increased plan funding obligations.\nAt the same time, the federal government tightened pension plan funding requirements and established new accounting rules for calculating plan assets and liabilities.