Michael is described as "very experienced and knowledgeable, with a pragmatic approach that lends itself to efficiency." He is highlighted by sources for his in-depth knowledge of pensions issues in both provinces. Commentators also note that he is "good at understanding the needs of the client."
- Chambers Canada, 2018 Guide
Michael practices exclusively in the area of Pensions and Employee 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 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 Lawson Lundell, Michael was a founding member of a Calgary-based boutique firm focused on providing integrated HR legal solutions and a partner with a national law firm.
- Alberta Treasury Board and Finance - Joint Legal Consultative Committee Member
- Financial Institutions Commission (BC) - Joint Legal Consultative Committee Member
- Law Society of Alberta, Member
- Law Society of British Columbia, Member
- Canadian Bar Association, Vice-Chair National Pensions and Benefits Law Section
- Canadian Bar Association, Co-Chair, Southern Alberta Pensions and Benefits Law Section
- Calgary Bar Association, Member
- Joint Alberta – British Columbia Drafting of Pension Legislation, Advisory Committee Member
- Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute, Member
- Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute, National Board of Directors, Past Chair
- Federated Press Pension Planning, Editorial Board, Member
- Association of Canadian Pension Management – Vice-Chair of Alberta Regional Council
- Calgary Villains FC, Coach (Current)
Recognitions & Rankings
Recognitions & Rankings
- Best Lawyers in Canada: recognized for Employee Benefits law
- Chambers Canada: recognized in the Pensions & Benefits (Canada) category
- Chambers Global 2017: recognized in the Pension & Benefits (Canada) category
- Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory: consistently recommended as a Leading Practitioner for Pensions and Employee Benefits (Employer)
- The International Law Office and Lexology: winner of the 2015 Employment & Benefits Client Choice award (Alberta)
Michael’s pensions and employee benefits experience includes:
- Advising a global organization that sponsors a complex defined benefit and defined contribution non-collectively bargained multi-employer plan with members in every Canadian jurisdiction, and a unique administrative structure. Provides advice to the plan’s Administrative Board on pension governance and administrative matters as well as on a number of complex regulatory and tax issues in relation to the plan.
- 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.
- Providing ongoing in-depth legal advice to an established regulated energy company in relation to pension governance structure, including the drafting of related documentation; pension and benefit questions relating to: potential cross-Canada operations for different classes of employees; a major project relating to its supplemental pension plans; consideration of pension and tax issues for both registered and supplemental pension arrangements involving cross-border transfer of employees; complex letter of credit issues; transfer of trust arrangements; and complex interjurisdictional and interpretation of law issues relating to division of pension benefits on marriage breakdown and a formal process in that regard.
- 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, 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.
News & Publications
News & Publications
- 30 Lawson Lundell Lawyers Ranked in Chambers Canada 2018, Chambers & Partners, September 28, 2017
- "Post-retirement Benefit Class Actions: Vivendi Canada Inc. v. Dell'Aniello', Pension Planning, Volume XIX, No. 2, 2015, Author
- "Alberta’s new Employment Pension Plans Act encourages innovation in plan design", Benefits Canada, December 2014, Author
- “Lloyd v. Imperial Oil (Case Commentary)”, Lancaster House Pension & Benefit Law E-Bulletin, No. 8, July 26, 2009
- “Courts Recognize Rights Need Balance”, Benefits and Pensions Monitors, Volume 19, Number 1, February 2009
- Amendments to Alberta’s Employment Pension Plans Regulation: Deadline Extensions and CBMEP Solvency Moratorium, Labour and Employment Law Blog, December 30, 2014
- “The Modernization of Canada’s Income Tax Rules for Registered Plans: ACPM’s Recommended Reforms," Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) National Session, Edmonton, AB, November 1, 2017
- “Legal considerations when evaluating drug cost management opportunities”, Drug Landscape Update seminar hosted by Arthur J. Gallagher Benefits Consultants, March 22, 2017, Speaker
- “Legal Update" Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute (CPBI) Pacific Region, Vancouver, BC, December 7, 2016
- “Legal Update” Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute (CPBI) Pacific Region, Vancouver, BC, December 7, 2016, Speaker
- "Shining a Light on Lost Members", Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) National Conference, Charlottetown, P.E.I., September 22, 2016, Co-Presenter
- "CPP Expansion", Public Sector Pensions National Meeting, Banff, AB, August 18, 2016
- "Current Trends in Pension Investment, including ethical investing", International Pension and Benefits Lawyers Association joint conference, St.John, NL, June 27, 2016, Co-Speaker
- "Legal Update", Calgary, AB, October 7, 2015
- "Surplus – It’s back, but will it be different this time", IPEBLA’s 15th International Brussels Conference, Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2015, Speaker
- "Group Life and Health Plans - A Global Update", Chicago, IL, June 23, 2014, Speaker
- "Pensions Case Law and Regulatory Update", Webinar, May 14, 2014, Co-Speaker with Susan Nickerson and Hugh O'Reilly
- "Implementation of Bill 10 - Alberta's New Pension Regulations Are (almost) Here", Calgary, AB, April 17, 2014, Co-Presenter with Paul Owens and David Mulyk
- "You Be The Judge", Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute Western Regional Conference, Whistler, BC (October 11, 2013), Speaker
- "Plan Design Options to Reduce Risk", 10th Annual Pension Fund Invitational Forum, Cambridge, ON, October 23 - 25, 2013, Speaker
- "Health Reform", International Pension and Employee Benefit Lawyers Association (IPEBLA) Conference, Rome, May 24 - 29, 2013, Speaker
- “Primer on Group Health/Dental; and, International Transfers”, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans; Certificate in Canadian Benefit Plans, Niagara Falls, August 15 - 17, 2011
- “Understanding and Negotiating Pension trust Agreements”, 16th Essential Skills for Pension Committee Members, Vancouver, November 9, 2012
- “Developments and Trends in Pensions, Benefits and Executive Compensation: A Lawyer’s Perspective”, Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute, October 27, 2011
- “Correcting Past Mistakes”, Pension Essentials for Lawyers, The Continuing Education Society of British Columbia, Vancouver, May 25, 2011
- “Innovative Benefits to Compliment an Overburdened Healthcare System”, Canadian Pensions and Benefits Institute Forum 2009, Calgary, May 27, 2009
- “Termination: Doing it Right”, BenefitLink, April 22, 2009, Co-Presenter with D. Rigolo
- “Identifying and Addressing Pension Legal Risks in M&As and Restructurings”, 3rd Pension Law & Litigation Course, Vancouver, April 21, 2009
- “Pension Reform in Canada: The Impact of Your Practice and Your Clients”, 2008 Canadian Bar Association Canadian Legal Conference, Quebec City, August 18, 2008
- “Developments and trends in Pensions and Benefits Law: Some recent Cases”, Human Resources Association of Calgary Annual Legal Conference, May 13, 2008, Co-Presenter with C. Rea
- “Legal Update: Developments and trends in Pensions & Benefits Law”, Human Resources Association of Calgary, May 13, 2008
- “Legal Update: Developments and Trends in Pensions & Benefits Law”, Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute, 2008 Spring Seminar, Saskatoon, April 23, 2008
- “Benefits Fundamentals: The Essentials of Benefits Plan Governance”, Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute – Ontario Region, Toronto, December 6, 2007
- “Post-Retirement Benefits”, Canadian Public Sector Pensions and Benefits Institute, Niagara Falls, June 29, 2007