Michael practises exclusively in the area of Pensions and Benefits law. He provides private and public sector clients, including boards of trustees, with strategic advice and practical counsel about legal, legislative and regulatory issues surrounding retirement plans, employment benefits and related human resource matters. In business transactions, Michael advises clients on the pension and benefit implications. He assists clients with drafting, amending and interpreting a wide variety of plan and trust documentation and provides support on pension and benefit litigation. Michael is also highly experienced in the legal aspects of governing, administering and documenting group benefit plans, including non-pension post-retirement benefit plans.
For many years, Michael has been active in the area of legislative reform for pensions through a variety of forums. He is a member of the Legal Consultative Committee for Alberta Treasury Board and Finance. Michael served on the Advisory Committee for the Joint Alberta-British Columbia Drafting of Pension Legislation, which was formed by those two governments to provide input and advice into the development of a new joint pension standards act and regulation for the two provinces.
Prior to joining Fasken, Michael was a partner at a regional law firm and a founding member of a Calgary-based boutique firm focused on providing integrated HR legal solutions and a partner with a national law firm.
Michael's pensions and benefits experience includes:
- Providing ongoing legal advice and drafting assistance to a global organization in relation to pension documentation and member communication; advice on complex group benefit issues including disability benefits; supplemental pension benefits and issues arising in relation to the division of pension benefits on marriage breakdown.
- Advising a large collectively bargained multi-employer pension plan in relation to day-to-day administration including such matters as division of pension benefits on marriage breakdown and entitlement to death benefits.
- Advising the appointed regulator of a pension plan sponsored by the company in CCAA protection, and subsequently in bankruptcy, with respect to deemed trust issues and related litigation.
- Providing opinions to public sector pension plans on various matters, including interpretation of governing legislation and plan provisions.
- Providing legal advice in connection with the merger of supplemental employee retirement plans for eleven related employers along with the establishment of a single trust for the merged plan.
- Providing advice to numerous entities in relation to the administration, governance and tax issues relating to supplemental employee retirement benefit plans.
- Legal advice and drafting of plan, corporate and trust documentation in connection with splitting a registered pension plan into two separate plans.
- Providing advice on the establishment of solvency reserve accounts.
- Advising the board of trustees of a registered supplemental pension plan on a variety of ongoing administrative, documentation and tax issues.
- Advising a client with respect to litigation arising from the conversion of a pension plan from defined benefit to defined contribution and issues associated with the determination of accrued benefits.
- Drafting policies for plan administrators, including governance and funding policies. Reviewing and revising statements of investment policies and procedures and investment management agreements.
- Drafting legal opinions on a variety of topics including the ability to amend various provisions of pension plans.
- Negotiating trust and custodial agreements and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals.
- Drafting, amending and interpreting plan texts for registered and non-registered defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans.
- Advising clients with respect to member entitlement to pension and group benefits.
- Advising clients with respect to the ability to amend or terminate post-retirement benefit plans.
- Advising clients with respect to the withdrawal and access to funds from group benefit plans.
- Providing legal advice with respect to errors in the administration of pension and group benefit plans.
- Providing advice with respect to the governance of pension plans and related fiduciary obligations.