Canada: Dois-Je Vraiment Conserver Tous Ces Documents?

Considérant la nature à long terme des régimes de retraite, les principes de bonne gouvernance exigent qu'un administrateur conserve certains documents relatifsau régime. De bonnes pratiques de conservation de documents sont également essentielles pour se protéger contre d'éventuelles réclamations. Il arrive parfois que d'anciens employés réapparaissent dix ou même 20 ans après leur terminaison d'emploi pour réclamer « leur pension ».

L'affaire GenCorp1 constitue un bon exemple des risques découlant d'une politique de conservation inadéquate. Dans cette affaire, l'employée en question avait travaillé pour l'employeur de 1946 à 1967. Lorsqu'elle a atteint l'âge de 65 ans en 1992, elle a demandé à l'administrateur de lui verser une rente, mais celui-ci n'avait plus aucun dossier à son égard. La politique de l'administrateur était de détruire un dossier 20 ans après une terminaison d'emploi si aucune rente n'était payable. Sur la base de cette politique, l'administrateur a refusé la demande puisque si l'employée avait effectivement droit à une rente, il aurait conservé un dossier.

L'employée a démontré qu'elle avait rempli toutes les conditions pour avoir droit à une rente différée à l'époque de sa terminaison. De son côté, l'administrateur était dans l'impossibilité d'établir qu'elle n'avait pas rempli ces conditions ou qu'un paiement libératoire avait été effectué. Étant incapable de réfuter les allégations de l'employée, l'administrateur a été contraint de reconnaître son droit à une rente.

Une politique de conservation solide permet à l'administrateur de se défendre efficacement contre certaines réclamations. Dans l'affaire Desjardins2, par exemple, un administrateur s'est fait poursuivre en 2006 en raison de prétendus manquements à son devoir d'information en 1985-1986 et en 1993. Les demandeurs alléguaient que l'administrateur avait fait défaut de les informer à propos de certains aspects de leur régime et qu'ils avaient donc pris des décisions désavantageuses.

Grâce à une preuve documentaire étoffée, l'administrateur est parvenu à démontrer que les allégations étaient sans fondement. L'administrateur avait notamment conservé des exemplaires des communications transmises aux employés aux époques pertinentes (incluant la méthodologie de transmission) ainsi que des détails concernant les séances d'information offertes (dates, listes de présence et fiches des présentations). Ces documents ont permis à la cour de conclure que l'information nécessaire avait bel et bien été fournie et que l'administrateur avait rempli ses obligations fiduciaires.

Ces affaires illustrent l'importance de conserver des dossiers complets pendant plusieurs décennies même si cela peut à première vue sembler onéreux et peut-être même inutile. L'administrateur risque autrement de se retrouver sans une preuve crédible pour soutenir sa défense.

QUELQUES CONSEILS PRATIQUES

La question qui vient immédiatement à l'esprit lorsqu'on rédige une politique de conservation de documents est : que doit-on conserver et pendant combien de temps ? Il est important de préparer une politique qui soit adaptée à chaque régime, mais quelques grands principes devraient être respectés dans chaque cas.

  • La politique doit être bien documentée et inclure au minimum une description des documents à conserver et leur durée de conservation. La politique doit être accompagnée de procédures pour en assurer la mise en oeuvre.
  • Les documents qui créent et soutiennent le régime devraient être conservés à perpétuité. Ces documents incluent les textes du régime et ses modifications, les conventions de fiducie, les communications aux employés, les conventions collectives, etc.
  • Tant qu'une personne a des droits en vertu du régime, l'administrateur devrait conserver toute information la concernant qui pourrait être nécessaire pour traiter les questions relatives à ses droits, à la forme ou au montant de ses prestations.
  • Lorsque des droits sont acquittés ou qu'une prestation cesse d'être versée, l'administrateur devrait conserver à perpétuité un sommaire du dossier du participant ou bénéficiaire (incluant l'information personnelle, le montant des droits acquittés et les raisons pour la fermeture du dossier).
  • Dans tous les cas, la collecte, l'utilisation et la conservation des renseignements personnels doivent être conformes aux exigences de la législation applicable en matière de protection des renseignements personnels.
  • L'administrateur devrait conserver les autres documents relatifs à l'administration du régime, incluant les contrats avec des fournisseurs de service, les rapports des fournisseurs, etc. Il doit décider au cas par cas si de tels documents doivent être conservés et pour combien de temps. Il est généralement prudent de les conserver pendant au moins trois ans suivant leur date d'émission ou la date de terminaison du contrat.
  • Les documents relatifs au régime peuvent être conservés sur support papier ou sur des supports faisant appel aux technologies de l'information. La législation québécoise reconnaît en effet que les documents électroniques dont l'intégrité est assurée ont la même valeur juridique que les documents sur support papier.

Une bonne gestion des documents est essentielle pour permettre à l'administrateur de démontrer qu'il a agi avec prudence, diligence et compétence et ce, au mieux des intérêts des participants. Les administrateurs de régimes doivent donc non seulement adopter une politique de conservation, mais aussi la réviser de temps à autre pour s'assurer qu'elle demeure adaptée aux régimes en question. Comme l'été est généralement une période un peu plus calme, ne serait-ce pas le moment idéal pour revoir votre politique et examiner vos pratiques de conservation?

Footnotes

1 GenCorp Canada Inc. v. U.R.W., Local 455 (1993), 38 L.A.C. (4th) 203.

2 Desjardins c. General Motors du Canada ltée, 2009 QCCS 1200.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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