The SFUO office space, seen in 2017. Photo: Parker Townes/Fulcrum
Reading Time: 4 minutes

PwC estimates total value of valid claims from parties such as employees, student organizations will be less than $1 million

Thirty-one parties say they are owed about $1.86 million in total from the University of Ottawa’s former undergraduate student union, but its court-appointed receiver PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates the total value of valid claims will be less than $1 million, court documents show.

The school terminated its contract with the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) last year in the wake of fraud allegations against the union’s leaders. Students then voted to elect the new student government, the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU), in February. 

PwC launched a claims process for the SFUO in September and estimated the now-defunct union could owe up to $1 million to about 100 parties.

In their fifth court report dated Oct. 15, PwC says 31 parties ended up submitting claims by the deadline of Oct. 11, totalling about $1.866 million. Other claims have been submitted past the deadline which “have been set aside and not reviewed by the receiver,” the report reads.

The largest group of creditors are labelled “trade,” which could include businesses that may have supplied the SFUO with goods and services. There are 22 unnamed parties, claiming to be owed around $760,000 in total by the former union. 

Two unnamed student organizations say they are owed just over a combined $520,000 from the SFUO, while five unnamed employees are claiming about $475,000 in total. 

In a court report published prior to the granting of the claims process, PwC highlighted an alleged claim for severance and termination pay from the SFUO’s former executive director and human resources assistant/services coordinator, amounting to $400,000. PwC also mentioned potential severance and termination claims from former employees not hired by the UOSU.

One unnamed landlord says they are owed about $95,000 from the SFUO. In the Aug. 16 court report, PwC mentioned a potential claim of an undetermined amount from the landlord of Agora Bookstore, tied to the termination of the lease for the property. The UOSU chose not to take on the SFUO’s former business this summer, citing financial challenges posed by the province’s Student Choice Initiative. 

One unnamed union is claiming about $8,900 from the SFUO. PwC wrote in its Aug. 16 court report that CUPE 4943, the union which represented some of the staff of the SFUO, could submit an omnibus claim on behalf of its members.

PwC says in the Oct. 15 court report that it is in the process of reviewing the validity of the claims to deem them acceptable, in need of revision, or disallowed. 

Partner Mica Arlette wrote in the report that based on an initial review, PwC “estimates that the total value of proven claims following the issuance of the notice of revision or disallowance (to be sent out by Oct. 22) will be less than $1 million.”

“If the final balance of proven claims exceeds the SFUO’s net proceeds, (PwC) will seek advice and direction from the court on how to distribute the SFUO’s funds fairly amongst its creditors,” Arlette said in a statement to the Fulcrum on Thursday.

Parties that are looking to dispute notices of revision or disallowance are required to file a notice by Friday, to either be dealt with by a claims officer or the court. PwC says it will provide another report following this deadline. 

Updates on GSC health care reserves 

Green Shield Canada (GSC) is a not-for-profit benefits carrier that has offered a prepaid health care plan to the undergraduate student body at the U of O since 2010, with the SFUO as the plan’s sponsor.

On April 25, the UOSU filed a statement of claim against GSC in a separate proceeding, laying claim to reserve funds in the health care plan that totalled approximately $1.43 million as of Aug. 31, 2018.

The UOSU said the reserve funds should represent a trust for the benefit of U of O students, while PwC said in an emailed statement on Sept. 19 that the issue concerns the entitlement of the SFUO to the cash reserves remaining (if any) in the benefit plan now that the plan sponsored by the SFUO has terminated.”

These reserve funds are made up of about $408,000 in a claims fluctuation reserve and just over $1.022 million in a surplus account reserve. 

In their statement of claim, the UOSU proposed an order that “any deficits in revenue incurred in the Green Shield Canada Group Benefit plan during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 benefit period be paid from reserve funds held by Green Shield.”

The UOSU and PwC had planned to meet this coming Monday for a mediation hearing to address the conflict over the reserve funds, but that has since been cancelled.

In his statement to the Fulcrum, Arlette said PwC and the union had agreed to a timetable for the submission of materials for the mediation process, but “due to circumstances beyond the UOSU’s control, those materials were significantly delayed and not delivered in the time frame to which the UOSU had committed.”

Arlette said this delay restricted PwC’s “ability to respond properly prior to the scheduled mediation.” He added no mediation date is set as of now but said PwC “will continue to dialogue with the UOSU on a number of issues including on the issue of the entitlement to the reserves.”

The UOSU and PwC are still scheduled to meet in court in front of a bilingual judge in January 2020 to litigate the issue if mediation is not successful. 

— With files from Anchal Sharma

Read More: