As Nortel Network's financial situation deteriorated at the end of 2008, pensioners such as Peter Benedek and Frank Mills began discussing the need for legal protection for pensioners and looked for lawyers experienced in pension law. They realized that further deterioration could lead to significant impacts on pensions and related benefits.
On January 14th, 2009, Nortel initiated financial restructuring under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), a legal process to give the company time to review and revise its financial situation in an effort to avoid bankruptcy. Within a week, Peter and Frank held a meeting with other concerned pensioners and the group became the initial steering committee of the Nortel Retirees Protection Committee (later renamed to the Nortel Retiree and former employee Protection Canada - NRPC). After reviewing recommendations from other pensioners groups and lawyers, the group retained Koskie Minsky LLP to represent them.
The first objective was to achieve court recognition for Koskie Minsky to represent all pensioners and for the court to order Nortel to pay our legal fees. For court recognition, we needed a significant number of pensioners to sign retainers with Koskie Minsky. Mark Zigler of Koskie Minsky suggested a Town Hall meeting and the first information session was held in Ottawa on January 21st. Similar groups were then formed in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, London, Belleville and Kingston, and they held Town Halls in the larger centers. In April 2009, with more than 2000 retainers, the NRPC submitted affidavits requesting Koskie Minsky be given official standing as our legal representatives.
In May 2009, the Honourable Justice Morawetz of the Superior Court of Ontario confirmed that Koskie Minsky will be the representative counsel for all former employees of Nortel Canada. Justice Morawetz determined that Koskie Minsky should represent a larger group than we requested in our affidavits. He decided that all the former employees have a "commonality of Interest" and the process can best be served by the appointment of one representative counsel. He said, ".... Koskie Minsky is, in my view, the logical choice."
The NRPC is representing the needs of the NRPC Group which includes former Nortel employees and retirees who worked for Nortel in Canada. The retiree group includes "inactive members" of the defined benefit pension plan such as those currently receiving pensions, survivors receiving pensions and deferred pensioners. The former Nortel employee group includes people recently severed from Nortel. The NRPC Group's interest includes:
- Pensions paid from the pension plans,
- Pension benefits paid from general company revenues, such as health and life insurance benefits, pensions above the CRA limit and transitional retirement allowances,
- Termination benefits,
- Requests for commuted value payments from the pension plans.