On March 16, FSRA published “Defined Benefit Multi-Employer Pension Plans – Leading Practices”, its guidance for Defined Benefit Multi-Employer Pension Plans (“DB MEPPs”) concerning governance, risk management and communication practices.
These Leading Practices were developed at the conclusion of a review by FSRA of a number of Ontario-registered DB MEPPs and their practices in the three areas under review. Further information about each Leading Practice discussed below can be found in the Leading Practices document on FSRA’s website.
The characteristics of a MEPP can, at times, make governance, risk management and communication more challenging for Boards of Trustees. FSRA’s Leading Practices aim to provide guidance on how MEPPs can modify or expand upon their current practices to operate most optimally. They do not amount to compliance obligations, but rather represent the views of FSRA and reflect prudent best practices already in place in some Ontario MEPPs across various sectors.
Governance in a pension plan refers to, “the structure and processes in place for the effective administration of the pension plan to ensure the fiduciary and other responsibilities of the plan administrator are met.” Good governance practices are of the highest importance for any pension plan, including MEPPs.
FSRA provided the following Leading Practices with respect to governance:
- A comprehensive orientation policy to on-board new trustees;
- Trustee education policies to support trustees in fulfilling their role as plan fiduciaries;
- A trustee succession plan to ensure continuity on the Board of Trustees and good plan administration; and
- Plan enrolment policies and procedures that support members remaining connected with their pensions.
Risk Management Practices
Risk management is the process of establishing practices to identify and manage a pension plan’s risks. The establishment of such practices is the responsibility of the plan administrator, which in a MEPP is the Board of Trustees. Risk is an inherent aspect of pension plan management and having risk management practices in place is integral to a MEPP’s ability to respond to risk.
FSRA has provided the following Leading Practice with respect to risk management:
- A risk management policy that integrates funding and benefit policies and outlines the material risks facing the pension plan along with a plan to either mitigate or respond to these risks.
Communication practices related to plan beneficiaries, trade unions and employers are increasingly important for MEPPs in light of the nature of the benefits provided and challenges in engagement with members.
FSRA has provided the following Leading Practices with respect to communication:
- Plain language communication for plan beneficiaries as to the nature of their pension plan such that they can make informed decisions. This includes clearly explaining the potential and likelihood for benefit adjustments; and
- Regular, on-going dialogue between the trustees, advisors and key stakeholders involved in the plan supports awareness, collaboration, and operational effectiveness.
Evaluating administration practices on an ongoing basis is a highly important task for all pension plans, including MEPPs. Reviewing and updating processes and standards where necessary is integral to Boards of Trustees in order to achieve and maintain good governance, prudent risk management and clear and consistent communication. The lawyers in our Pensions group are here to provide advice and guidance to MEPPs as they navigate these areas and this guidance from FSRA.
 CAPSA Guideline No. 4, https://www.capsa-acor.org/CAPSAGuidelines