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  1. Insurance: M&A and regulatory
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Leading lawyers

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Probably the market leader for insurance work’, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s ‘deep bench’, ‘strong experience in sophisticated transactions’ and ‘great ability to marshal support in relevant areas’ all stand out for clients. Senior counsel Greg Frenette is a ‘superstar’ and has a strong track record in major insurance M&A. Financial services chair Paul Belanger is ‘very strong’ and is acting as transactional counsel to Economical in its ongoing demutualization. Belanger was also part of the deal team (which was led by the corporate department) that advised Intact Financial on its $1.7bn acquisition of OneBeacon Insurance Group and related C$700m equity financing. Dawn Jetten chairs the regulatory side of the practice alongside Belanger and advised Citigroup Insurance Holding Corporation on the regulatory aspects of its sale of Financial Reassurance Company 2010 to a subsidiary of Munich Re. The firm has also recently undertaken work for CIBC Insurance, Standard Life and TD Insurance. All named partners are based in Toronto.

Professional, organized and responsive’, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s insurance group stands out for its ‘strong knowledge base’ and ‘broad national network that complements core local services’. The group is well weighted between regulatory and transactional work and its regulatory expertise in particular is held up as ‘the best in Canada’, with clients highlighting the firm as a ‘key go-between with the regulatory authorities’. Among the names to note, Toronto-based financial institutions co-chair and ‘leader in his field’ Robert McDowell receives rave reviews for his ‘leadership, tutelage and deep knowledge and understanding of the regulatory landscape’. Also in Toronto, ‘excellent communicator’ Koker Christensen ‘has developed into a very skilled attorney’. McDowell and Christensen advised Aviva Canada on its C$582m acquisition of RBC’s home and auto insurance underwriting business and on its 15-year strategic agreement with RBC Insurance. The same team also acted for Esurance in establishing a Canadian insurance subsidiary and insurance agency. In Vancouver, Kareen Zimmer advised Co-operators General Insurance Company on its joint venture with First Credit Union to offer insurance products and services to clients on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

Stikeman Elliott LLP is ‘top of the list for a complex insurance matter’, due in no small part to the reputation of Toronto-based Stuart Carruthers, who is a ‘foremost expert in the insurance area’. Among Carruthers’ recent transactional highlights, he advised RBC on the C$582m sale of its home and auto insurance underwriting business to Aviva Canada and on its related 15-year distribution partnership with Aviva Canada. He also acted alongside the corporate department to advise Omers Capital Markets on its co-investment with Fairfax Financial Holdings, under which Omers will invest $1bn to acquire a 21% stake of Allied World Assurance. In a headline multi-jurisdictional deal, Carruthers advised China Oceanwide Group on the Canadian aspects of its proposed C$3.6bn acquisition of Genworth Financial, including acquiring control of TSX-listed Genworth MI Canada. The group also handled a series of major regulatory and compliance matters over the past year. Other representative clients include Chubb Canada, Reinsurance Group of America Canada, and Royal and Sun Alliance Canada.

Torys blends its top-tier corporate offering with its niche strength in financial services regulation to offer comprehensive coverage of the insurance industry. Financial institutions co-chair Blair Keefe is widely lauded for his ‘outstanding sector knowledge’ and advised Canadian Life & Health Insurance Association on regulatory issues relating to the genetic discrimination elements of Bill S-201. Keefe also acted alongside the corporate team to advise Scotia Bank on its sale of HollisWealth to Quebec insurance company Industrial Alliance Securities. Capital markets specialist David Seville also has a strong profile in the insurance field and acted for Manulife Financial in several matters over the past year, including on its $1bn private placement of senior notes in Taiwan. In 2017, new financial institutions co-chair Jill McCutcheon arrived from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, bringing with her 25 years of experience in the insurance industry. Fairfax Financial Holdings, Sun Life Financial and Wilton Re are also on the department’s books. All named partners are based in Toronto.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP’s insurance practice distinguishes itself through its ‘deep knowledge of the regulatory environment’ and its ‘consistently top-notch service’. Particular praise is reserved for Toronto-based ‘market-leader’ Brian Reeve, who sources highlight as ‘an absolute expert in his field’. Among the group’s key highlights, Reeve advised Wawanesa Mutual Insurance on the regulatory aspects of its subsidiary’s C$775m acquisition of Western Financial Group and Western Life Assurance from Desjardins Financial. Toronto-based Gordon Goodman is also highly regarded in the market.

At McCarthy Tétrault, insurance M&A is a notable sweet spot but the firm also handles a significant volume of standalone regulatory matters. Toronto-based Nancy Carroll heads the national insurance and reinsurance group and acted for global reinsurer Pacific Life Re on its establishment in Canada. Carroll is also representing the eligible mutual policyholders committee in the demutualization of Economical. On the transactional side, Carroll and Montreal-based Sonia Struthers are advising Desjardins Financial on ongoing matters arising from its C$1.6bn acquisition of State Farm Canada’s businesses in life as well as property and casualty insurance.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s practice is balanced between transactional and regulatory matters. On the regulatory side, Toronto-based Donna Spagnolo advised Manulife on the introduction of Manulife Vitality, a new life insurance program that rewards people for healthy living. Highlight deals included advising Securian Financial Group on its acquisition from ivari of Canadian Premier Life, Legacy General Insurance Company, CRI Canada and Selient. In 2017, partner Jill McCutcheon and senior counsel Kelly Morris moved to Torys.

The ‘responsive and client-oriented’ group at Gowling WLG demonstrates ‘strong business acumen and industry knowledge’. Toronto-based group lead Filomena Frisina is ‘focused on achieving business objectives with as little regulatory friction as possible’ and along with Kitchener-based Peter Koch and Montreal’s Michael Garellek advised Economical Mutual Insurance on its acquisition of Western Financial Insurance. Frisina and Garellek also advised Starr Insurance & Reinsurance on its application to add the automobile class to its insurance licenses in all provinces and territories in Canada.

McMillan LLP recently advised Vitality Group on the introduction of Manulife Vitality, a new life insurance program that rewards people for healthy living. High-profile figure Frank Palmay is widely recognized as a leading specialist in the insurance area and jointly chairs the firm’s financial services regulatory practice from Toronto. Toronto-based Carol Lyons is also a key name for insurance matters.

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