Canadian Supreme Court Snubs Request for Pension Surplus

June 26, 2006 ( - Canada's high court shot down last week an attempt by 112 retirees and former employees of Rogers Communications Inc. to tap into the media giant's 2002 $11 million pension surplus.

According to the Toronto Star, the court overturned an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia, which said that the retirees and former employees could demand that their pension plan be terminated. Instead, a majority of the judges said they would have to now turn to the federal Superintendent of Financial Institutions to end the plan.

The members of the lawsuit include retirees who are already into their 80s and former employees in their 40s, who would have to wait until 65 to collect minor pension payments, the Star reported.

The case against the media company stems from its attempt since 1984 to take out surplus funds from a 1974 pension plan it absorbed when it acquired cable company Premier Communication in 1980. However, instead of adding new members to the plan to exhaust the pension surplus, Rogers closed the plan to new members in 1984.

The claim goes that the company wrongfully took $800,000 in surplus funds – a decision it later reversed – halted contributions and finally moved in 1992 to merge the plan with three other plans, the Star reported. The 112 members of the lawsuit contend they should have gotten the surplus when the plan terminated, as promised by the plan’s trust documents.

The Supreme Court says the fact that the contributions ceased in 1984 and the plan has since been closed to new members are arguments in favor of terminating the plan.