September 13, 2023
Ontario’s Court of Appeal has paved the way for the settlement of a class action over a de-indexed pension plan after affirming that Superior Court judges have the authority to adjudicate pension disputes.
In 2019, more than five years after Brewers Retail amended its pension plan to limit the availability of inflation-adjusted benefits tied to the consumer price index, the employer and dissenting plan members settled their dispute and agreed to implement their settlement via a class action.
As the pension regulator at the time, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) oversaw negotiations and approved the settlement. But by the time the case came to court in 2021, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Ontario had taken over from FSCO and withdrew its support.
FSRA asked the court to stay the class action on the basis that the Financial Services Tribunal (FST) has sole jurisdiction over the dispute, but a Superior Court judge ruled against the FRSA, criticizing the regulator for its “disregard” for the interests of class members.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the province’s top court dismissed FSRA’s appeal, noting that the legislation governing the FST does not explicitly oust the court’s jurisdiction to decide pension disputes or to approve settlements involving interpretations of the province’s pension laws.
Click on more information below to read the full decision: