Pensions

Global

The law governing pensions and benefits is complex and constantly evolving. The actions of employers, trustees, plan administrators and their service providers are subject to regulatory review and legal challenges - and the need for sophisticated, practical pensions and benefits advice has never been greater.

Gowling WLG can provide this advice. Our team is renowned for communicating in plain English, delivering pragmatic, robust advice and giving a clear view on grey areas. Our lawyers are bright and able to deal with the technicalities of pensions law - but always remain focused on finding commercial solutions.

You often need access to wider counsel, and our team can quickly call upon in-depth expertise in funds, tax, corporate, real estate, banking, derivatives, energy, infrastructure and financial services. The pensions areas we cover include:

  • Benefit change
  • Funding negotiations
  • Investment matters, including direct investment in alternatives such as infrastructure projects
  • Liability management exercises
  • Risk transfer at all levels
  • Mergers and corporate restructuring
  • Scheme closures, design and governance

We'll work with you to determine what you need, and then deliver exactly that. We aim not just to answer legal questions, but to consider whether you've asked us the right questions, whether there's a less costly way forward and whether you've considered all the potential consequences of a specific route. You'll get practical and innovative help, presented in a way that's clear and to the point.

Because we act for all sides on pensions, often on an international scale, we see pensions from all angles. Amongst our clients are trustees, sponsors of schemes, national and regional governments and agencies, actuaries, consultants/administrators, industry bodies (including regulators) and insurance companies.

Our experience means there's little we haven't seen and dealt with before, so you'll be engaging lawyers who'll alert you to issues before they arise. For security, clear advice and in-depth knowledge on pensions, contact our team.

Canada

The actions of employers, plan administrators and their service providers are subject to regulatory review and legal challenges, including class actions. The need for sophisticated, timely and practical advice related to pension and benefits matters has never been greater.

Gowling WLG provides strategic legal advice on all pension matters - in relation to both registered and non-registered plans - to a full range of industry clients, including employers, employees, sponsors, administrators, beneficiaries, custodians/trustees and investment/fund managers, among others.

A unique perspective

What makes us distinct from many of our competitors is that we don't act solely for the “employer side” or the “employee side.” Our unbiased perspective, the broad nature of our clientele and the fact that we don't have a public position to defend makes us best-placed to provide effective pensions advice to all clients.

A broad clientele

We act for several of Canada's larger single and multi-employer pension plans, both in the private and public sectors. We also act on behalf of promoters of investment products and investment managers, and assist them in structuring their products and services to appeal to pension fund investors.

In-depth experience and expertise

Our team has a broad range of experience and expertise, including lawyers formerly on staff at a pension regulator. In dealings with pension regulators and government officials/agencies, we provide our clients with the benefit of invaluable historical insight and practical experience. We also work closely with other practice groups to deliver seamless service in other key legal areas.

We provide advice and assistance on a wide range of pension matters, including:

  • Plan governance and fiduciary obligations
  • Benefit administration
  • Investment matters, including contract review, comments to SIP&Ps and compliance opinions
  • Asset transfers, plan mergers and plan conversions
  • Plan terminations and annuity purchases
  • Pension and benefit issues in the context of mergers, acquisitions and insolvencies
  • Surplus management issues, including contribution holidays, surplus withdrawals and plan expense issues
  • Supplementary pension plans (SERPs and RCAs)
  • Negotiating and drafting contracts with third party service providers, including investment advisers, consultants, custodians, trustees and others
  • Plan amendments, including compliance amendments, benefit changes and extraordinary changes (e.g., plan closure, freezes, etc.)
  • Preparation and review of employee communications
  • Strategic advice with respect to regulatory examinations and investigations
  • Representation before pension regulatory authorities and all levels of court
  • Pension tax issues

Learn more

To learn more about how we can support your pension needs, please reach out to any member of our team.

UK

Our team of pension lawyers provide expert, authoritative pension law advice which anticipates clients needs to achieve your pension objectives.

Pensions UK Highlights

Articles
Nine key pensions issues that will hit the headlines in 2019

2019 promises plenty of developments that will keep trustees, employers and advisers busy. From Brexit to superfunds, pension professionals will have to grapple with new legislation, consultations and revised guidance.

We do more than just answer your legal questions. Clients, including employers, pension managers, pension fund chairs, independent trustees, employers' HRDs and FDs, advisers and statutory bodies turn to our "superb pensions practice" (Chambers UK) for advice.

One of the "jewels in the [firm's] crown", the team combines "excellent, direct and pragmatic advice" with "in-depth understanding" and a "friendly approach" (Legal 500).

Why you should choose us:

  • A tailored, efficient service - With more than 40 dedicated pensions lawyers, including 11 partners, and several specialist sub teams, clients can expect a team tailored to their exact requirements. The chances are that this team has seen it before, so you'll be using lawyers who alert you to the issues before they arise (and you won't be paying for learning on the job)
  • Easy access to wider legal advice - To provide the comprehensive service now essential to trustees, this team can quickly call upon expertise in funds, tax, corporate, real estate, banking and financial services
  • Delivering what you really need - We'll work with you to work out what you really need, and then deliver that. We aim not just to answer legal questions but to consider whether you have asked us the right question, whether there is a less costly way forward and all the potential consequences of a specific route
  • Keeping clients abreast of the latest legal developments - our pensions experts are immersed in the latest regulatory changes and so are well-placed to advise on the hot topics effecting the industry. Through events, workshops, alerts and digital media they ensure clients have the information and guidance they need.

Team members take an active role in the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association, The Society of Pension Professionals and Association of Pension Lawyers. We also host a bi-annual seminar on current pension issues, webinars on new issues as they arise, and roundtable discussions for small groups of clients with a common interest.

We regularly work on an international scale and are well used to dealing with the unique governance and covenant issues that arise when a sponsoring employer is part of an international group.

All of this is why clients, including ICL Group Pension Plan of Fujitsu UK and Ireland, Rothesay Life, Thales UK Pension Scheme, Pirelli Schemes, Finning Pension Schemes, Pension Protection Fund, Mitchells & Butlers Pension Plans, NFU Mutual, Rolex, Hitachi Data Systems Retirement Benefits Plan, Twentieth Century Fox Film Pension Scheme, Volvo Penta UK Retirement Benefits Scheme and Stanley Gibbons, choose us.

Results for clients

Innovative protection structure

One of our pension fund clients' sponsoring employer had a parent company that wanted to give it £300 million worth of shares. But there were liabilities attaching to those shares, which would have exposed the rest of the pension fund to the risk of claims. A remote risk, but not one a trustee could take. The trustees wanted the asset in the fund, but not the risk.

Our Pensions team designed an innovative protective structure around the shares, so that the fund could take the economic benefit without the liability risk. The shares (a large minority holding in a NASDAQ listed company) have since increased very substantially in value and been sold, a great result for the fund.

First ever AE-compliant cash balance scheme

A very large employer client was in the first wave of the auto-enrolment obligations. It had a corporate culture which did not want to move completely away from defined benefit provision for the workers coming into the new arrangement, most of whom were being pensioned for the first time.

We designed and wrote (in a very short time) the first ever AE-compliant cash balance scheme, which gives tens of thousands of moderately paid workers access to a defined benefit lump sum on retirement.

The investment risk has been taken away from the employees, who are not well placed to take it. And the long term unknown of a major longevity risk has been taken away from the employer. More than 25,000 members signed up to the 'half way house' scheme.