BALTIMORE -- The parent company of the defunct Baltimore News American has agreed to take over an underfunded pension plan and pay off its beneficiaries, ending more than a year of uncertainty for hundreds of former newspaper employes.

The Hearst Corp. will assume responsibility for terminating the plan and making up any shortfall needed to pay about 200 vested members of the plan. Hearst, however, declined to pay benefits to 160 nonvested employes as the union had requested.

The in-house union negotiated a pension on behalf of reporters, editors, photographers and advertising employes at the newspaper. The plan was funded by the company and administered by a joint company-union board.

Shortly after the News American stopped publication in May of last year, fund administrators prepared for its termination by selling its stocks, bonds and other investments and putting the money into an interest-bearing bank account.

In the following months the plan, which was still paying retirees, fell to about $2.2 million, about $200,000 short of the required amount to be considered adequately funded, according to the union.

Hearst spokesman James O'Donnell said the company had no legal responsibility but believed it could help the former employes.