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Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s pensions group ranks highly due to its deep national bench, which is staffed by some of the leading names in the country, and its strong visibility across the full range of transactional, advisory and contentious matters. Toronto-based department co-chair Kathryn Bush is widely regarded as a ‘go-to lawyer’ due to her far-reaching practice that spans income tax as well as pensions and employee benefits. Bush advised RR Donnelley on the local pensions aspects of the restructuring of its Canadian business. Toronto-based Jeremy Forgie is also a high-profile figure in the market and acted for Scotia Bank on the pensions aspects of the sale of its Roynat Lease Finance business to Meridian Credit Union. In another headline transactional matter, Calgary’s Sean Maxwell advised Suncor on the pensions aspects of the C$1.1bn sale of its Petro-Canada Lubricants business. On the contentious side, Montreal-based Natalie Bussière successfully represented Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada in a case brought by a former employee concerning allegedly unpaid income replacement benefits and a revised pension. Elizabeth Boyd is also a key contact in Toronto.

Widely lauded as ‘the absolute leader for employee-side work’, Toronto boutique Koskie Minsky LLP has ‘first-class knowledge and experience in the pensions area’. In particular, senior partner Murray Gold is a ‘star lawyer’ and was recently appointed by the Ontario government to form part of an independent panel to deliver advice on the application of accounting standards for the jointly sponsored pension plans, Ontario Public Service Employees Union Pension Plan and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Mark Zigler is also highly regarded, particularly for class actions and major insolvency cases, and he represented the former employees and long-term disability beneficiaries of Nortel Networks in Nortel’s highly contentious cross-border insolvency proceedings. Michael Mazzuca is recommended for his strong experience in multi-employer and jointly sponsored pension plans.

Extremely experienced and client-focused’, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s pensions group scores highly for its ‘creative and problem-solving approach’. Certainly the firm remains at the cutting edge of pensions law, routinely advising on the creation of highly complex and sophisticated new plans. In Toronto, Paul Litner is a ‘reference in the pensions area’ and advised Constellation Brands on the sale of its Canadian wine business to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. In another high-profile transaction, Toronto-based Anthony Devir advised Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a syndicate of DIP lenders and an ad hoc committee of term lenders on the pensions and benefits aspects of Essar Steel Algoma’s CCAA proceedings. Also in Toronto, Jana Steele impresses with her strong background in plan design, particularly shared risk and target benefit plans. On the contentious side, Montreal-based ‘rising starJulien Ranger represented IBM Canada in a class action arising from amendments to its pension and post-retirement benefits program.

Highlighted by clients as ‘at the top of its field’, Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLPhas the depth and experience to respond quickly with a complete view of the alternatives and risks’. The ‘top-class boutique’ focuses exclusively on employment, pensions and labour law from its five offices across Ontario, ensuring a ‘broad practice coverage that is not found in many firms’. Highlights included advising on the proposed merger of multiple pension plans with over C$10bn in assets. Toronto-based Stephanie Kalinowski now chairs the department.

Lawson Lundell LLP is considered by many to possess ‘the leading pensions practice in Western Canada’, and it fields noted pensions specialists in both its Vancouver and Calgary offices. ‘Expert in the industry’ Murray Campbell steers the group from Vancouver. Highly regarded for his experience in pensions and employee benefit litigation, Campbell also routinely advises on non-contentious matters – significantly, he advises 30 boards of trustees of multi-employer pension or benefit plans. Kenneth Burns is also highly recommended in Vancouver, and in Calgary Michael Wolpert is the name to note.

McCarthy Tétrault’s comprehensive pensions and employee benefits practice shines in complex litigation, multi-employer pension plans, cross-border matters and other sophisticated issues. Toronto-based group head Randy Bauslaugh is commended as a ‘leading light’, with his ‘strong technical expertise’ impressing sources. In one of the market’s highest-profile ongoing mandates, Bauslaugh is representing Morneau Shepell, as administrator of the Nortel Canadian Pension Plan, in the global bankruptcy proceedings of Nortel Networks. Lorraine Allard is also recommended in Toronto and advised Fairmont Raffles Hotels International on the pensions and benefits aspects of its $2.6bn acquisition by Accor.

The ‘very strong team’ at Torys scores highly for its ‘in-depth knowledge of the business context’ and its ‘strong history in the pensions law area’. Mitch Frazer heads the team and is ‘among the best in this space’; he is advising Navistar Canada in partial wind-up litigation proceedings. Susan Nickerson is also well known for her experience in the area and advised Scotiabank on the pensions and employee benefits aspects of its acquisition of a MasterCard and private label credit card portfolio from JPMorgan Chase. In another transactional highlight, Scott Bell advised CPPIB, as Canadian pension investment regulatory counsel, on its $2.5bn acquisition of a 40% stake in Glencore’s agricultural products business.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Toronto-based group sets itself apart through its ‘excellent service’ and ‘top-notch pensions knowledge’. In particular, practice lead Andrew Harrison is ‘extremely strong’ and advised HollyFrontier on the pensions aspects of its C$1.1bn acquisition of Suncor’s Petro-Canada Lubricants business. Sonia Mak (‘knowledgeable and great to work with’) and Markus Kremer (‘congenial, practical and genuinely interested in the client’s business’) are also key names.

A ‘pleasure to work with’, Dentons’ national group attracts strong praise for its ‘highly knowledgeable, experienced and responsive lawyers’. In Toronto, Mary Picard is held up as a ‘very strong partner’ and advised Enbridge on the employee benefits aspects of the $1bn sale of its South Prairie region assets to Tundra Energy Marketing. Scott Sweatman is recommended in Vancouver.

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s pensions unit sits within its market-leading employment practice and is particularly well versed in plan restructuring, plan administration and pensions litigation. Peggy McCallum steers the group from Toronto and advised Sobeys on its appeal of a court decision finding it liable for damages relating to the deficit in a pension plan of a third-party warehouse provider.

The pensions group at Stikeman Elliott LLP has strength in all key areas of pensions law, with strong showings in plan administration, pension fund investment and corporate support matters. Toronto-based Andrea Boctor heads the team and advised Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan on its C$1bn acquisition of Constellation Brands Canada. On the administration side, Boctor advises Canadian National Railway on their 35,000-member federally regulated pension plans.

Bennett Jones LLP has a robust pensions practice under the leadership of Toronto-based sector specialist Susan Seller. Seller recently advised Northern Transportation on the pensions aspects of its CCAA proceedings. Gateway Casinos & Entertainment and Waste Connections are also recent clients.

The ‘knowledgeable’ group at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP takes a ‘very disciplined approach to how it interprets legislation and puts forward its clients’ issues’. Corporate partner David Stratton QC splits his time between Edmonton and Calgary and has ‘strong knowledge in the pensions area’, and Edmonton-based associate Veronica Monteiro is ‘very analytical and balanced’.

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