Level advises employers and pension and benefit plan sponsors and administrators, and works for many of the largest plans in Atlantic Canada. He helps them manage risk and liability in the governance, administration, investment management and amendment of pension and employee benefits plans, as well as to defend them against claims under those plans. By analyzing the employers’ legal obligations and strategically planning how to meet them, he provides perspective, as well as timely and effective solutions to these challenges. Level is knowledgeable and experienced with regional, national and international approaches to labour and employment, pension and benefits and executive compensation issues. Examples of his work include:
Pensions and Employee Benefits
1. Advice to Employers and Pension and Benefit Plan Administrators and Sponsors
- Advising on amendment, fiduciary duties, administration and governance of many of the largest pension plans in Atlantic Canada, including plans in the public service, retail, resource, health care, utility and education sectors. Aspects reviewed include governance, statement of investment policies and procedures, trust agreements and investment management agreements. Issues covered have included solvency funding, joint sponsorship and plan conversions.
- Advising plan sponsors on the amendment of employee benefits including restructuring of benefits pooling, administrative services only (ASO) arrangements, flex plans and post-retirement benefits.
- Advising on plan administration issues, including spousal division, survivor benefits and plan records.
- Advising on amendment of plan benefits including changing of benefit formula and reduction of benefits.
- Advising on the conversion of pension plans in private and public sector to shared risk or target benefit plans.
- Advising on consolidation of pension plans including application of special legislation.
- Advising on consolidation and conversion of a pension plan for a Nova Scotia manufacturer including implementation of special legislation.
- Amendment of pension plans, retirement savings plans (e.g. LIFs and LIRAs), and related documents for compliance with pension legislation.
- Advising on pension, benefit and employment matters in mergers and acquisitions, including acquisitions of retail, manufacturing, technology, professional services and forest product companies.
- Provided advice regarding pension and benefits in acquisition of a large Canadian retail business.
- Advising educational institutions on the amendment and collective bargaining of pension and post-retirement benefits.
- Advising lender on pension issues in a significant (approximately $80 million) credit facility for a New Brunswick forest products company.
- Advising on restructuring of trust arrangements including conversion to a master trust.
2. Investment Advice and Negotiations for Pension Plans
- Advising and negotiating investment management agreements, management services, agreements and side letters for pension plan investments including:
- Discretionary mandates in Canadian, US and global equity, bond, private debt and fixed income.
- Investment in pooled funds (including with master trusts) for global bonds, emerging markets equity, real estate, infrastructure, mortgages and fixed income.
- Negotiation and revision of limited partnership agreement in establishment of real estate investment structure.
- Review and advice on transition management and investment consulting agreements.
- Review of investment agreements and policies, including statement of investment policies and procedures, trust agreements and investment management agreements for defined benefit, defined contribution and target benefit plans.
- Review, advice and negotiation on annuity arrangements for defined benefit and defined contribution plans, including one of the largest defined contribution plans in Canada.
3. Pension and Benefits Litigation
- Advising on and responding to claims regarding pension and benefits plans, including retiree benefits.
- Assisting the Province of New Brunswick in pension actions by retirees and unions, including Charter challenges, with respect to the implementation of the Public Service Shared Risk Plan.
- Representation of a private sector benefits plan sponsor in claims with respect to misrepresentation and bad faith in administration of disability benefit and group life insurance plans.
- Representation of a national bank on pension matters in the wrongful dismissal of a senior manager.
- Representation of a school board in an arbitration on pension plan amendments (increase in employee contributions).
- Representation of a health care facility in an arbitration pertaining to a group RRSP on issues including breach of fiduciary duty.
- Assisting with the representation of a large Nova Scotia manufacturer in defending against a class action proceeding by pension plan members with respect to pension plan amendments, pension plan funding and legal costs.
- Representation of Newfoundland municipality pension plans in response to breach of a fiduciary duty action.
- Representation of forest products companies in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in pension litigation with respect to spousal pension and plant closure matters.
- Representation of employers in workers’ compensation hearings on issues including gradual onset injuries and environmental illness.
Executive Employment and Services Agreements
- Reviewing and advising on executive employment, including employment agreements and supplemental employee/executive retirement plans (SERPs), in the public sector as well as private and publicly-traded companies in the retail, commercial real estate, health care, entertainment and education sectors.
- Advising on and revising incentive plans, including bonus, stock option, deferred share unit (DSU) and performance share unit (PSU) plans.
- Advising on and drafting services and consulting agreements, including independent contractor, contingent workforce management and payroll services agreements.
- Advising on retirement and post-retirement arrangements, including consulting, transition and part-time work.
- Advising on executive employment matters in mergers and acquisitions, including employment of key persons and non-competition obligations.
Advocacy and Law Reform
Projects and initiatives that Level has lead or contributed to include:
- Various law reform submissions on pension and equality legislation at the Federal and provincial levels.
- Advocacy for increasing the diversity of the judiciary.
- Development of a guide for law firms to measure the diversity and inclusiveness of their workplaces.
- Development of concrete measures to increase the diversity of CBA leadership.