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PENSIONS - 3/20/2020 - COVID-19 Response

We are monitoring the rapidly evolving circumstances around COVID-19. We understand the normal course of business has been disrupted and business continuity plans have been activated at many workplaces, including at FSRA. Nearly all FSRA staff are working remotely at this time.

FSRA will continue operations and will consider approaches that can assist plan administrators in their ongoing administration and compliance efforts while not losing sight of the need to provide benefits and protect the rights of plan beneficiaries.

To that end, we are reviewing our work, stakeholder engagement activities and other commitments to prioritize activities. We are committed to communicating with you regularly. As we adapt to new norms, we ask for your patience and understanding where you experience delays.

Below, we are sharing FSRA’s responses to some questions which may also be top of mind for you and/or your clients. We ask you to bear in mind that we are facing a unique and rapidly evolving situation and our position may evolve over the coming days and weeks.

Q1. Plan administrators may need extensions for upcoming regulatory filings, for example, audited financial statements, valuation reports, etc. Will FSRA grant extensions?

A1. FSRA understands that pension plan administrators and their agents will likely face challenges in meeting upcoming filing deadlines. Section 105 of the Pension Benefits Act (PBA) allows pension plan administrators and their authorized agents to request a filing extension of up to 60 days beyond the prescribed timeline under the PBA. Plan administrators or their authorized agents who are registered on FSRA’s Pension Services Portal (PSP) may submit filing extension requests of up to 60 days via the PSP. If the filing extension request is for a period beyond 60 days, we ask you to submit your request by email (preferably) or regular mail to your assigned Pension Officer.

Q2. Plan administrators may be unable to provide member disclosure information within the prescribed timelines of the PBA, for example, annual and biennial pension benefit statements, termination statements and retirement statements. How will FSRA respond?

A2. Member statements are an important tool for plan members. Receiving complete, accurate and timely information about one’s pension benefits and available options are key to enabling plan members to make well-informed decisions. FSRA understands many businesses are operating under their business continuity plans and disruption to regular course operational processes may cause delays in the production of member disclosure information within the prescribed timelines of the PBA. If a plan administrator or their agents are facing challenges in complying with the prescribed timelines, we ask that you let your assigned Pension Officer know via email as soon as possible. While FSRA does not have discretionary powers to extend the prescribed timelines as they relate to member disclosures, effective immediately, provided you have advised us of the challenges you are experiencing and your proposed plan of action, summary administrative monetary penalties will not be levied with respect to non-compliance in this area until further notice.

Q3. I am a retiree from a pension plan supervised by FSRA and I have stopped receiving my pension payments. What should I do?

A3. We regret to learn of the disruption in your retirement income. We understand you are relying on your pension payments as a key source of income. As a first step, please contact your pension plan administrator right away to inform them of your situation. If the situation persists, please contact FSRA by sending an email through our website https://www.fsrao.ca/contact-us and we will work with you to restore your pension.

Q4. I am a pension consultant. My client’s pension plan is in the process of requesting the CEO’s consent to a specific transaction and has filed an application in that regard. Will that application continue to be processed?

A4. All pending transactions filed with FSRA such as pension asset transfers or wind-up applications, will continue to be reviewed by FSRA staff, although we expect there will be some delay due to the current disruptions. If you have any questions regarding pension plans or pension benefits, please contact your assigned Pension Officer via email by visiting the Pension Plan Information Access page or submit your inquires to our pension inquiries email at PensionInquiries@fsrao.ca. If you are submitting new applications or additional documents, please do so electronically via email. If you are unable to submit your application electronically, please contact your assigned Pension Officer to make alternate arrangements.

Q5. We are a plan administrator (or an agent) and we have become aware that the transfer ratio of our defined benefit pension plan has deteriorated by 10% or more. What should we do?

A5. Financial market conditions are changing very rapidly and may result in significant volatility in the funded status of pension plans. As always, the security of pension benefits remains our priority. If the administrator of a defined benefit pension plan registered in Ontario knows or ought to know that the transfer ratio has fallen by 10% or more since the most recently determined transfer ratio (or if the most recently determined transfer ratio was above 1 and it has fallen to 0.9 or less), the administrator shall not transfer any part of the commuted value of a pension, deferred pension or ancillary benefit to which a member or former member is entitled without obtaining FSRA’s prior approval. Please use Form 10 to seek FSRA’s approval, and where possible, please submit the form electronically to your assigned Pension Officer. Please refer to section 19 of Regulation 909 of the PBA and to the former FSCO Policy and Q&A’s for further detail with respect to this requirement.

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