Pensions and Benefits: Overview
Osler’s Pensions and Benefits Department provides deep and wide-ranging expertise from one of the largest groups of full-time pensions and benefits law practitioners of any Canadian law firm. That market-leading expertise is complemented by the specialized knowledge and skill contributed by the “cross-appointed” lawyers from our Tax, Litigation and Research Departments and our U.S.-qualified lawyers. Through our integrated team in offices in Toronto, Montréal and New York, we can provide the right combination of experience along with a solutions-driven approach to meet all of our clients’ needs on both sides of the border – for all sizes of organizations.
Our pensions and benefits lawyers have experience in the following:
- Plan Governance and Administration – Osler has advised many of Canada’s largest plan sponsors, administrators and public sector pension funds, providing expertise on every aspect of plan administration and governance, including plan funding, multijurisdictional issues (including Québec civil law and Canada-U.S. cross-border issues), governance audits, compliance reviews, plan member communications, and agreements with third-party service providers. Our lawyers have extensive experience representing clients in dealings with the federal and provincial pension regulators and the tax authority.
- Pension Plan Restructuring – We have advised plan sponsors on the complexities of plan asset transfers, mergers, conversions and wind-ups, including undertaking reviews of historical plan documents and preparing submissions to the regulators. Osler lawyers have also been involved with some of the most complex restructuring cases of the day, bringing exceptional expertise to the table.
- Pension De-risking - The de-risking of defined benefit (DB) pension funds is a global trend, which is beginning to emerge in Canada and the United States, where many DB plans have solvency deficiencies. Our lawyers are at the forefront of this trend, developing strategies for addressing the legal issues that arise with the various de-risking options that are available to pension plan sponsors.
- Shared Risk and Target Benefit Plans – With Canada’s recognized expert on shared risk plans leading the way, we advise organizations with respect to legal issues associated with the establishment of shared risk and target benefit plans.
- Pension Fund Investments - We advise many of Canada’s largest pension plans on alternative investment structures (e.g., investments in private equity, real estate and infrastructure).
- Litigation – Osler lawyers have been involved in many of the leading pension cases before the courts and pension regulatory tribunals in Canada. Our representation of sponsors of multijurisdictional plans has led to our involvement in major pension actions in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Québec and Alberta, as well as frequent interaction with pension regulators across Canada.
- Executive Compensation – Along with the U.S.-qualified members of our team and with colleagues in our highly regarded Tax Department, we regularly advise and assist leading companies on creating tax-effective compensation arrangements for executives on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
- Transactional Experience – We work closely with other members of the firm on the pensions and benefits aspects of mergers, acquisitions, insolvencies and other corporate transactions and restructurings.
- Surplus Utilization – We have represented plan sponsors in some of Canada’s largest surplus withdrawals, including the largest withdrawal of plan surplus in Canadian history (almost $450 million). Recent surplus withdrawal arrangements Osler has worked on have ranged in value from $5 million to $165 million. We have also advised clients on issues related to contribution holidays and plan expenses.
Osler is consistently recognized as one of the “go-to” firms in Canada when it comes to this complex and diverse field. Lexpert Magazine, the country’s leading legal journal, calls Osler one of two market leaders in pension plan administration matters, where “the pure pension law expertise largely resides.” Lexpert also noted that Osler is “found as counsel on pension-related deals more frequently than any other firm in the country” and The 2013 Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory ranked Osler’s Pensions and Benefits Group as “most consistently recommended”. In the 2014 edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada, Osler is “Top-Listed” in Ontario and Québec in Employee Benefits Law, with several of our legal practitioners recognized in the directory for their expertise in this field. Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Business Lawyers 2013 ranks Osler’s Pensions & Benefits Group as top tier, noting that the firm has “a really top-notch pensions and benefits practice” and that “they hold themselves to extremely high standards and provide well thought-out advice.”