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.

Plan Administration and Governance

We advise leading plan sponsors, plan administrators and public pension funds including:

  • Aéroports de Montréal
  • Aviva Canada Inc.
  • Bank of Montreal
  • Bank of Nova Scotia
  • Bell Canada
  • Business Development Bank of Canada
  • Cameco Corporation
  • Canada Life
  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
  • Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Coca-Cola Bottling Company
  • Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Pension Plan
  • École Polytechnique de Montréal
  • General Motors of Canada Limited
  • Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan
  • Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. Limited
  • Hydro-Québec
  • IBM Canada Limited
  • Imperial Oil Limited
  • Labourers’ Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada
  • Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)
  • Ontario Pension Board
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
  • Toronto Transit Commission Pension Fund Society
  • Vivendi
  • Torstar Corporation

    Torstar Corporation in its $200 million acquisition of an interest in VerticalScope Holdings Inc.

  • BCE Inc.

    BCE Inc. in its ground breaking pension de-risking strategy

  • École polytechnique de Montréal

    École polytechnique de Montréal in a class action relating to changes to the indexation provisions of its pension plan.

  • Canadian Bankers Association,

    Canadian Bankers Association, as intervener in Sun Indalex Finance, LLC v. United Steelworkers, in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that had created commercial uncertainty. This long-awaited decision had significant repercussions for credit agreements, resulting in the re-drafting of the previous standard provisions related to pensions, as well as considerable implications for pension governance and insolvency proceedings.

  • Imperial Oil Limited

    Imperial Oil Limited in an action before the Ontario Financial Services Tribunal which found no requirement to annuitize pension benefits on a partial plan wind-up;

  • Hudson’s Bay Company

    Hudson’s Bay Company in an action and subsequent successful appeal regarding the transfer of surplus to a successor pension plan on the sale of a division of the employer’s business;

  • Michelin North America (Canada) Inc.

    Michelin North America (Canada) Inc. in a class action trial involving a claim by members in relation to the validity of contribution holidays totalling $268 million;

  • Hydro-Québec

    Hydro-Québec in a class action trial and subsequent appeal involving a claim by its retirees for $377 million relating to the alleged misuse of the Hydro-Québec pension fund surplus;

  • Watson Wyatt

    Watson Wyatt in a successful court application which permitted rectification of pension plan language for the first reported time in Canada.

  • Ontario Pension Board

    Ontario Pension Board on its debenture offering valued at $500 million – one of the few successful implementations of such an offering by a public sector pension plan in Canada.

  • Chambers Global: The World's Leading Business Lawyers, 2015, Osler ranked in Pensions and Benefits, Band 1.
    • Widely acknowledged as one of the leading providers of pensions and benefits support in the country, with notable expertise in shared risk and target benefit plan management. Advises on the pensions aspects of M&A transactions and is also involved with de-risking plans and class action defence. On the labour and employment side, the firm offers transaction-related advice to financial services, energy and retail clients. Additional experience in wrongful dismissal, major workplace restructuring, privacy compliance and litigation. "They are phenomenal in all aspects of pensions and benefits." "If we have an urgent issue the lawyers there are unbelievably responsive and accessible."
  • The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory, 2015, Osler’s Pension & Benefits Group (Toronto), Most frequently recommended.
  • The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory, 2015, Osler’s Pensions & Benefits Group (Montreal), Consistently recommended.
  • The Best Lawyers in Canada, 2015, Seven Osler Lawyers recommended in Employee Benefits.
  • 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”
  • The 2014 Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory ranked Osler’s Pensions and Benefits Group as “most frequently recommended”.Osler has more lawyers listed in Lexpert in the pension area than any other Canadian law firm.
  • The Best Lawyers in Canada 2014 “Top-Listed” Osler 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 2014 ranks Osler’s Pensions and Benefits Group as top tier, noting that the firm has “a leading pensions and benefits team with extensive expertise in pension fund investments, plan administration, governance and restructuring, pension and benefit litigation, M&A, insolvency and pension reform.”

  • Pensions

    ERISA Pension Plan Overpayments: Navigating Conflicting Fiduciary Obligations and IRS Guidance

  • Plan Investments

    An In-Depth Look at Plan Investments: Recent and Upcoming Changes to Legislation and Policy

  • The Indexation Debate – Is It a Pension Benefit?

  • Ready, Set, Retire: How Plan Sponsors and HR Can Facilitate Retirement Readiness

Pensions & Benefits Law

Keep current on Canadian and U.S./cross-border Pensions & Benefit Legal Issues.

View our blog

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Myths

Common myths associated with target benefit plans and defined benefit pension plans

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