The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) issued a
policy on the management and retention of pension plan records on
July 9, 2010. The FSCO policy strongly recommends that all
administrators make it a priority to establish a formal and
comprehensive written pension plan records management and retention
This FSCO policy explains the rationale for having prudent
pension plan records management and retention practices and
provides guidance for establishing such practices. The FSCO policy
applies to all sizes and types of pension plans (including
multi-employer pension plans) but it states very clearly that the
level of detail and the appropriate retention periods may vary from
plan to plan and may change over time.
The FSCO policy emphasizes that appropriate records management
and retention practices and complete and accurate records are
essential for meeting a pension plan administrator's
obligations under the pension legislation. In light of this new
FSCO policy, the administrator of an Ontario registered plan should
consider establishing such a policy, or reviewing its existing
policy to consider whether changes are required, to reflect the
requirements in the FSCO policy. Although the FSCO policy only
applies to pension plans registered in Ontario, it can serve as
useful guidance to administrators of pension plans registered in
other provinces in establishing records retention and management
The FSCO policy deals with different aspects of records
management and retention practices:
responsibilities of the administrator for record management and
pension plan records and retention periods;
transferring the administrator's record keeping
responsibilities of other pension stakeholders.
The FSCO policy recommends that, in setting up an appropriate
records management and retention policy, the plan administrator
first classify the pension plan records into different categories
and then determine the appropriate retention periods. Generally,
pension plan records can be classified into:
plan records that pertain to legislative requirements;
plan records that pertain to individual plan beneficiaries;
all other plan records that pertain to the day-to-day operation
of the pension plan and pension fund.
Legislation applicable to retention of records (e.g., the
Income Tax Act (Canada)) also needs to be reviewed in
fixing the retention period.
The FSCO policy also provides guidance on the minimum contents
of the records management and retention policy. One of the
components that needs to be covered is the form in which the
documents will be stored. The FSCO policy confirms that records may
be stored and retained electronically provided that the
requirements in applicable legislation relating to electronic
records are complied with. In addition, the plan administrator must
ensure that adequate back up systems exist and that records will
always be accessible upon request.
Sometimes an administrator's records keeping
responsibilities may be transferred to third parties (e.g., when an
employer's business is sold or when responsibilities are
delegated to third party service providers). The responsibilities
of such third parties need to be properly documented.
The FSCO policy indicates that other stakeholders also have
certain records retention responsibilities. For example, plan
beneficiaries are responsible for keeping plan records that they
receive from the administrator and reviewing the pension statements
that they receive from the administrator and notifying the
administrator if any information appears incorrect on their
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