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The ‘top-tier pensions practice’ at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP is regarded by some as ‘the best choice for particularly complex or innovative work’. The national group excels in all areas of pensions-related law, with plan administration, litigation and transactional matters all notable strong suits. In Toronto, department co-lead Kathryn Bush is widely lauded as a ‘star in the Canadian pensions area’; she, alongside Caroline Helbronner, advised Morneau Shepell in its capacity as plan administrator of the Sears Canada Pension Plan. On the transactional front, Bush advised DP World on its C$5bn joint venture with pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Toronto-based Jeremy Forgie is also regarded as a market leader and advised The Washington Companies on the pensions aspects of its C$1.5bn acquisition of Dominion Diamond. Other recommended partners include Montreal-based Natalie Bussière, who recently advised the board of trustees of two multi-employer target benefit plans on the merger of both plans, and Calgary-based future star Sean Maxwell.

Koskie Minsky LLP ranks top in the country for employee-side work and the Toronto boutique is routinely engaged by unions, employees, retirees and pension administrators on the full spectrum of pension and benefit matters. Among the names to note, former managing partner Murray Gold is considered a ‘dean of the pensions bar’ and is well known for his prominent record in restructuring-related cases. Mark Zigler, who leads the firm’s class actions unit, is another leading light and is highly regarded for pensions litigation and complex restructurings; he represented the former employees and long-term disability beneficiaries of Nortel Networks in Nortel’s high-profile cross-border insolvency proceedings. Michael Mazzuca, who handles both contentious and non-contentious pensions matters, is also a key contact.

A ‘clear leader in the pensions field’, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP impresses with its deep national practice, which sources highlight as ‘strong in both Toronto and Montreal’. A specialist in fund administration matters, the team is also a strong performer in investment matters, restructurings, litigation and corporate support work. Toronto-based department chair Paul Litner is a leading light who can turn his hand to all aspects of pension law; he advised Intercontinental Exchange on the pensions elements of its C$931m sale of Trayport Holdings to TMX Group. In one of the year’s most high-profile restructuring-related mandates, Litner also advised Sears Canada on its CCAA proceedings. Jana Steele (‘a superb lawyer, with a great practice’) is another senior figure in the Toronto team. In Montreal, Julien Ranger is ‘one to watch’, with more than one source commenting ‘if I could hire him, I would’. Other key clients include Ontario Pension Board, General Motors of Canada and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

New pensions boutique Brown Mills Klinck Prezioso LLP, which was formed in 2017 through a breakaway of a four-partner group from Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP, earns strong praise for its ‘great expertise’ and ‘strong commitment to the pensions and benefits area’. Elizabeth Brown remains a leading figure in the market and represented a foreign parent corporation in defending two proposed class actions concerning pension and benefits claims related to insolvent Canadian subsidiaries.

Lawson Lundell LLP’s group ‘owns the Western Canadian pensions market’, according to sources. The Vancouver-headquartered firm fields a nationally prominent practice in this space, with specialist expertise in all types of pension plans, retirement plans, health and welfare trusts, and employee benefit plans. In Vancouver, sector specialist and department head Murray Campbell is highly regarded for his deep experience in the area; notably, he advises over 30 boards of trustees of multi-employer pension or benefit plans. Kenneth Burns and Michael Wolpert are also recommended in Vancouver and Calgary respectively.

McCarthy Tétrault’s team, which is spread between its Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver offices, is well versed in administration, corporate support and litigation. In Toronto, experienced group head Randy Bauslaugh advised the Canadian Bar Insurance Association on the development of a multi-employer target collective defined contribution pension scheme for law firms and accounting firms in Canada. The group also draws upon the senior expertise of counsel Gregory Winfield, who has recently undertaken work for OMERS and Glencore, and new arrival Deron Waldock, who was formerly in-house at Aon Hewitt — both are in Toronto.

Torys LLP’s ‘responsive and solution-oriented’ pensions practice sets itself apart through its ‘deep industry knowledge’ and its ‘strong experience in the pensions investment space’. Indeed, the consensus is that few teams come close in the investment area, with the Toronto-based group best known for its close relationships with major Canadian funds. Department chair Mitch Frazer has a strong market profile and advised Navistar Canada in partial wind-up proceedings. In another highlight, Susan Nickerson advised Scotiabank on the compensation aspects of its acquisition of Jarislowsky Fraser. Counsel Scott Bell is also recommended.

Responsive and client-oriented’, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Toronto-based pensions team impresses with its ‘excellent and high-quality service’. Among its key names, ‘very knowledgeable’ group head Andrew Harrison maintains a broad financial services practice with a focus on pensions, investments, funding and financial institutions. Clients also single out the ‘very good’ Sonia Mak.

At Dentons, Toronto-based pensions expert Mary Picard is highly regarded for her advice on plan administration, regulatory issues and transactional support matters. In Vancouver, Scott Sweatman is also recommended for his focus on pensions, benefits, executive compensation and related tax law.

Over the past year, FASKEN has advised on several significant pensions-related disputes. Most notably, Montreal-based Dominique Monet represented the City of Montreal in litigation relating to the consolidation of pension plans. Peggy McCallum, who leads the national group, and Ross Gascho are also recommended — both are in Toronto.

Labour and employment heavyweight Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP houses a solid pensions and employee benefits practice, which is steered by the ‘very strong’ Stephanie Kalinowski. Highlights included representing a plan administrator before the Court of Appeal in a claim for a survivor pension.

Stikeman Elliott LLP had a strong year, which saw it act on a string of headline transactional matters. Most notably, Toronto-based group head Andrea Boctor (‘a really excellent specialist’) advised Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan on its joint venture with Glencore Canada. On the administrative front, Boctor advises Canadian National Railway on its 35,000-member federally regulated pension plans. Toronto’s Natasha vandenHoven is also recommended.

The ‘top-notch team’ at Bennett Jones LLP stands out for its ‘highly professional and grounded lawyers’. Most notably, Toronto-based employment services co-lead Susan Seller is ‘very knowledgeable, personable and level headed’; she advised Schlumberger Production Management on the employment and pensions aspects of its C$1.3bn acquisition, together with Torxen Energy, of the Palliser Block assets in Alberta.

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP has a comprehensive pensions practice, which has recently kept busy advising on day-to-day administration issues, investment matters and corporate governance. David Stratton QC, who splits his time between Edmonton and Calgary, and newly promoted partner Veronica Monteiro, based in Edmonton, are the key contacts.

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