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Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s insurance practice remains a ‘firm fixture in the top tier’, with sources asserting that it’s a ‘key player in Canada's most high-profile insurance files’. The team’s broad coverage of the area is a major differentiator and it excels across the full range of corporate and commercial, M&A, regulatory and contentious matters. Among the names to note, transactional and regulatory group lead Paul Belanger is ‘very capable’ and retains strong links with major Canadian banks. Jake Gilbert is a ‘future leader’ and advised HUB International on its acquisition of commercial property and casualty brokerage, Integro. On the contentious front, Jeff Galway advised Insurance Bureau of Canada — as intervener — in a case looking to contest the constitutionality of the Ontario Insurance Act. Other names to note include Calgary-based David Tupper, who leads the insurance litigation group, and senior financial services specialist Dawn Jetten. Named lawyers are based in Toronto unless otherwise stated.

A ‘leading firm in the insurance area’, FASKEN scores highly for its ‘strong regulatory expertise’ and its ‘expansive national spread’. The group, which draws upon specialist partners in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, is led jointly from Toronto by senior financial services heavyweight Robert McDowell and ‘very high-level lawyer’ Koker Christensen; together, they advised Co-operators Life Insurance Company on the regulatory and transactional aspects of the merger of Credential, Qtrade and Northwest & Ethical Investments to create a major Canadian wealth management firm. In another headline transaction, McDowell advised Co-operators on the acquisition of the minority interest in CUMIS Group, which owns two insurance company subsidiaries, from Central 1 Credit Union. Aviva Canada, Swiss Re and Travelers are also on the department’s books. Montreal-based Sylvie Bourdeau is also active in the insurance regulation space.

‘Among the market leaders’, Stikeman Elliott LLP fields a comprehensive insurance practice, which routinely advises major insurers, reinsurers and brokers on transactional, regulatory and contentious matters. The group, which spans the firm’s Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver offices, is led by Toronto-based M&A and commercial partner Stuart Carruthers. Carruthers, who is a ‘go-to-partner in the insurance area’, recently advised Integro Insurance Brokers on the sale of its Canadian subsidiary, Integro (Canada), to Hub International. He also advised Great-West Life, Manulife, Sun Life, Empire Life and Industrial Alliance on the launch of APEXA, a common software and services platform. Montreal's Laurent Fortier is a key contact for insurance litigation and, together with Montreal-based Matthew Liben, defended Chubb in property and delay in start-up claims relating to the refurbishment of a nuclear power station. Other noted insurance litigators include Montreal-based Peter J. Cullen.

Torys LLP’s group, which is lauded by satisfied clients as ‘the cream of the crop for insurance regulation’, demonstrates ‘extraordinarily deep knowledge and expertise’. In particular, ‘well-informed and pragmatic’ financial institutions co-chair Blair Keefe ‘is the man on Bay Street for financial services regulatory advice’, according to some. Keefe, alongside litigator John Terry, recently advised Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association on whether certain portions of Bill S-201, which prohibits genetic discrimination, would (if enacted) be valid federal legislation under the federal-provincial division of powers. Elsewhere, David Outerbridge successfully defended Manulife in an Ontario class action brought by Manulife’s former Barbados policyholders concerning benefits related to Manulife’s demutualization. On the corporate front, Ricco Bhasin advised Scotiabank on the C$238m sale of HollisWealth to Industrial Alliance Securities. Jill McCutcheon, who co-leads the practice, and capital markets specialist David Seville are also highly regarded.

The insurance group at McCarthy TĂ©trault is active across a broad scope of regulatory, corporate, M&A and commercial matters but it is best known for its ‘robust non-contentious practice’. Toronto-based group head Nancy Carroll is ‘extremely strong’ and advised Brown & Brown on the establishment of its Canadian operations. On the corporate side, Carroll acted alongside the business law department to advise Sun Life Global Investments (Canada) on its acquisition of Excel Funds Management and Excel Investment Counsel. Vancouver’s Ariel DeJong is recommended for insurance litigation.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP is valued for its ‘very responsive and sound advice’ and for its ‘commitment to assigning appropriately experienced counsel to each case’. The practice handles the full range of transactional and contentious work, with particular firepower in insurance defence files. Names to note on the contentious side include Ottawa-based Larry Elliot, who heads the insurance and tort liability group, and Toronto-based specialized litigation lead Cynthia Clarke. Jeffrey Graham and Donna Spagnolo are the key contacts on the transactional and regulatory front.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP is widely regarded as a force in the insurance area, finding favour for its strong skill sets in corporate and regulatory work. Star name Brian Reeve is widely hailed as a ‘top-tier expert in his field’ and is regularly instructed by property and casualty insurers, life insurers, reinsurers and insurance brokers. Gordon Goodman is also highly regarded and advised NFP Canada on its recent expansion in Canada, which involved four acquisitions including the acquisition of Dalton Timmis Insurance Group.

Gowling WLG’s national practice, which regularly acts for foreign and domestic insurers and intermediaries, strikes a good balance between transactional, regulatory and contentious work. In Toronto, financial regulatory head Filomena Frisina is an ‘excellent regulatory specialist’; she was selected by the board of directors of the new Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario to advise on the establishment of the new regulator. In Montreal, Michael Garellek provides ongoing regulatory advice to Starr Insurance and Reinsurance. Kitchener-based non-contentious specialist Peter Koch and Calgary-based litigator David Bishop are also recommended.

Global insurance heavyweight Clyde & Co LLP fields a leading contentious insurance practice in Canada, which spans insurance defence and coverage, professional liability, construction and product liability, among other areas. John Nicholl Ad E, who splits his time between Toronto and Montreal, has a pre-eminent reputation for insurance litigation.

Toronto boutique Lenczner Slaght LLP draws upon its top-tier litigation practice to cover the full scope of contentious policy, coverage and defence matters, with notable expertise in high-stakes and complex cases. Founding partner Glenn Smith leads the department alongside Nina Bombier.

McMillan LLP’s practice has a strong focus on non-contentious insurance. Carol Lyons jointly chairs the department and brings to bear an impressive record in compliance and regulatory matters, while Gerald Badali is highly regarded for product development and transactional work — both are based in Toronto. Clients include insurance companies, financial institutions, automobile corporations and payment card companies.

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