485BPOS 1 d940170d485bpos.htm FORM 485BPOS Form 485BPOS

As filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on June 15, 2020

File Nos. 333-92935 and 811-09729

 

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

FORM N-1A

REGISTRATION STATEMENT

UNDER

   THE SECURITIES ACT OF 1933  
   Post-Effective Amendment No. 2,361  

and/or

REGISTRATION STATEMENT

UNDER

   THE INVESTMENT COMPANY ACT OF 1940  
   Amendment No. 2,361  

(Check appropriate box or boxes)

 

 

iShares Trust

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Charter)

 

 

c/o State Street Bank and Trust Company

1 Lincoln Street

Mail Stop SFC0805

Boston, MA 02111

(Address of Principal Executive Office)(Zip Code)

Registrant’s Telephone Number, including Area Code: (415) 670-2000

The Corporation Trust Company

1209 Orange Street

Wilmington, DE 19801

(Name and Address of Agent for Service)

 

 

With Copies to:

 

MARGERY K. NEALE, ESQ.

WILLKIE FARR &

GALLAGHER LLP

787 SEVENTH AVENUE

NEW YORK, NY 10019-6099

 

DEEPA DAMRE, ESQ.

BLACKROCK FUND

ADVISORS

400 HOWARD STREET

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94105

 

 

It is proposed that this filing will become effective (check appropriate box):

 

Immediately upon filing pursuant to paragraph (b)

On June 15, 2020 pursuant to paragraph (b)

60 days after filing pursuant to paragraph (a)(1)

On (date) pursuant to paragraph (a)(1)

75 days after filing pursuant to paragraph (a)(2)

On (date) pursuant to paragraph (a)(2)

If appropriate, check the following box:

 

 

This post-effective amendment designates a new effective date for a previously filed post-effective amendment.

 

 

 


June 15, 2020
   
    
2020 Prospectus
iShares Trust
•  iShares ESG Advanced MSCI EM ETF | EMXF | NASDAQ
  
Beginning on January 1, 2021, as permitted by regulations adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), paper copies of the Fund’s shareholder reports will no longer be sent by mail, unless you specifically request paper copies of the reports from your financial intermediary, such as a broker-dealer or bank. Instead, the reports will be made available on a website, and you will be notified by mail each time a report is posted and provided with a website link to access the report.
If you already elected to receive shareholder reports electronically, you will not be affected by this change and you need not take any action. If you hold accounts through a financial intermediary, you may contact your financial intermediary to enroll in electronic delivery. Please note that not all financial intermediaries may offer this service.
You may elect to receive all future reports in paper free of charge. If you hold accounts through a financial intermediary, you can follow the instructions included with this disclosure, if applicable, or contact your financial intermediary to request that you continue to receive paper copies of your shareholder reports. Please note that not all financial intermediaries may offer this service. Your election to receive reports in paper will apply to all funds held with your financial intermediary.
The SEC has not approved or disapproved these securities or passed upon the adequacy of this prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

 



 


Table of Contents
“MSCI Emerging Markets Choice ESG Screened 5% Issuer Capped Index” is a servicemark of MSCI Inc. and has been licensed for use for certain purposes by BlackRock Fund Advisors or its affiliates. iShares® and BlackRock® are registered trademarks of BlackRock Fund Advisors and its affiliates. The Fund is not sponsored, endorsed, sold, or promoted by MSCI Inc., nor does MSCI Inc. make any representation regarding the advisability of investing in the Fund.
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iSHARES® ESG ADVANCED MSCI EM ETF
Ticker: EMXF Stock Exchange: NASDAQ
Investment Objective
The iShares ESG Advanced MSCI EM ETF (the “Fund”) seeks to track the investment results of an index composed of large- and mid-capitalization emerging market companies that have a favorable environmental, social and governance rating while applying extensive screens for company involvement in controversial activities.
Fees and Expenses
The following table describes the fees and expenses that you will incur if you own shares of the Fund. The investment advisory agreement between iShares Trust (the “Trust”) and BlackRock Fund Advisors (“BFA”) (the “Investment Advisory Agreement”) provides that BFA will pay all operating expenses of the Fund, except the management fees, interest expenses, taxes, expenses incurred with respect to the acquisition and disposition of portfolio securities and the execution of portfolio transactions, including brokerage commissions, distribution fees or expenses, litigation expenses and any extraordinary expenses.
You may also incur usual and customary brokerage commissions and other charges when buying or selling shares of the Fund, which are not reflected in the Example that follows:
Annual Fund Operating Expenses
(ongoing expenses that you pay each year as a
percentage of the value of your investments)
Management
Fees
  Distribution and
Service (12b-1)
Fees
  Other
Expenses1
  Total Annual
Fund
Operating
Expenses
0.16%   None   0.00%   0.16%
1 The amount rounded to 0.00%.
Example. This Example is intended to help you compare the cost of owning shares of the Fund with the cost of investing in other funds. The Example assumes that you invest $10,000 in the Fund for the time periods indicated and then sell all of your shares at the end of those periods. The Example also assumes that your investment has a 5% return each year and that the Fund’s operating expenses remain the same. Although your actual costs may be higher or lower, based on these assumptions, your costs would be:
  1 Year   3 Years  
  $16   $52  
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Portfolio Turnover. The Fund may pay transaction costs, such as commissions, when it buys and sells securities (or “turns over” its portfolio). A higher portfolio turnover rate may indicate higher transaction costs and may result in higher taxes when Fund shares are held in a taxable account. These costs, which are not reflected in the Annual Fund Operating Expenses or in the Example, affect the Fund’s performance.
Principal Investment Strategies
The Fund seeks to track the investments results of the MSCI Emerging Markets Choice ESG Screened 5% Issuer Capped Index (the “Underlying Index”), which has been developed by MSCI Inc. (the “Index Provider” or “MSCI”). The Underlying Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index designed to reflect the equity performance of large- and mid-capitalization emerging market companies with favorable environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) ratings (as determined by MSCI ESG Research LLC (“MSCI ESG Research”)) while applying extensive screens, including removing fossil fuel exposure. MSCI begins with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (the “Parent Index”) and selects companies with favorable ESG ratings while excluding securities of companies involved in adult entertainment, alcohol, gambling, tobacco, genetic engineering, controversial weapons, nuclear weapons, civilian firearms, conventional weapons, palm oil, private prisons, predatory lending, and nuclear power based on revenue or percentage of revenue thresholds for certain categories (e.g. $500 million or 50%) and categorical exclusions for others (e.g. nuclear weapons).
MSCI ESG Research rates the ESG characteristics of securities on a scale
of “CCC” (lowest) to “AAA” (highest). MSCI ESG Research determines the ESG ratings by evaluating the company's risks and opportunities and using a sector-specific ESG Key Issues (“Key Issues”) (e.g., carbon emissions) selection and weighting model. Each company is scored on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most desirable, for each applicable Key Issue before being provided an ESG rating based on average Key Issue score. ESG ratings are calculated in comparison to a company's sector peers, and securities in one sector may have a lower average ESG rating than securities in another sector. Only securities of companies with an ESG rating of “BBB” or higher are eligible for inclusion in the Underlying Index.
MSCI screens companies with involvement in fossil fuels by excluding any company in the energy sector as per GICS methodology and all companies with an industry tie to fossil fuels such as thermal coal, oil and gas—in particular, reserve ownership, related revenues and power generation. Companies that meet the fossil fuel involvement screen but that derive more than 50% of revenues from alternative energy and do not have an industry tie to thermal coal or oil sands or have fossil fuel reserves used most likely for energy applications, as determined by the Index Provider, will be added back. Additionally, MSCI excludes companies involved in very serious business controversies. MSCI ESG Research defines a controversy as an instance or ongoing situation in which company operations and/or products allegedly have a negative environmental, social and/or governance impact. Each controversy case is assessed for the severity of its impact on society. The Underlying Index also applies a 5% cap on any individual issuer to minimize constituent concentration.
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The Underlying Index includes large- and mid-capitalization companies and may change over time. As of May 12, 2020, a significant portion of the Underlying Index is represented by securities of companies in the consumer discretionary, financials and information technology industries or sectors. The components of the Underlying Index are likely to change over time. The Underlying Index is reviewed quarterly to coincide with the semi-annual and quarterly review of the Parent Index.
BFA uses a “passive” or indexing approach to try to achieve the Fund’s investment objective. Unlike many investment companies, the Fund does not try to “beat” the index it tracks and does not seek temporary defensive positions when markets decline or appear overvalued.
Indexing may eliminate the chance that the Fund will substantially outperform the Underlying Index but also may reduce some of the risks of active management, such as poor security selection. Indexing seeks to achieve lower costs and better after-tax performance by aiming to keep portfolio turnover low in comparison to actively managed investment companies.
BFA uses a representative sampling indexing strategy to manage the Fund. “Representative sampling” is an indexing strategy that involves investing in a representative sample of securities that collectively has an investment profile similar to that of an applicable underlying index. The securities selected are expected to have, in the aggregate, investment characteristics (based on factors such as market capitalization and industry weightings), fundamental characteristics (such as return variability and yield) and liquidity measures similar to those of an applicable underlying index. The Fund may or may not hold all of the securities in the Underlying Index.
The Fund generally will invest at least 90% of its assets in the component securities of the Underlying Index and in investments that have economic characteristics that are substantially identical to the component securities of the Underlying Index (i.e., depositary receipts representing securities of the Underlying Index) and may invest up to 10% of its assets in certain futures, options and swap contracts, cash and cash equivalents, including shares of money market funds advised by BFA or its affiliates, as well as in securities not included in the Underlying Index, but which BFA believes will help the Fund track the Underlying Index. The Fund seeks to track the investment results of the Underlying Index before fees and expenses of the Fund.
The Fund may lend securities representing up to one-third of the value of the Fund's total assets (including the value of any collateral received).
The Underlying Index is sponsored by MSCI, which is independent of the Fund and BFA. The Index Provider determines the composition and relative weightings of the securities in the Underlying Index and publishes information regarding the market value of the Underlying Index.
Industry Concentration Policy. The Fund will concentrate its investments (i.e., hold 25% or more of its total assets) in a particular industry or group of industries to approximately the same extent that the Underlying Index is concentrated. For purposes of this limitation, securities of the U.S. government (including its agencies and instrumentalities) and repurchase agreements collateralized by U.S. government securities are not considered to be issued by members of any industry.
Summary of Principal Risks
As with any investment, you could lose all or part of your investment in the
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Fund, and the Fund's performance could trail that of other investments. The Fund is subject to certain risks, including the principal risks noted below, any of which may adversely affect the Fund's net asset value per share (“NAV”), trading price, yield, total return and ability to meet its investment objective. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
Asset Class Risk. Securities and other assets in the Underlying Index or in the Fund's portfolio may underperform in comparison to the general financial markets, a particular financial market or other asset classes. Securities of companies that have positive or favorable ESG characteristics may underperform other securities.
Assets Under Management (AUM) Risk. From time to time, an Authorized Participant (as defined in the Creations and Redemptions section of this prospectus (the “Prospectus”)), a third-party investor, the Fund’s adviser or an affiliate of the Fund’s adviser, or a fund may invest in the Fund and hold its investment for a specific period of time to allow the Fund to achieve size or scale. There can be no assurance that any such entity would not redeem its investment or that the size of the Fund would be maintained at such levels, which could negatively impact the Fund.
Authorized Participant Concentration Risk. Only an Authorized Participant may engage in creation or redemption transactions directly with the Fund, and none of those Authorized Participants is obligated to engage in creation and/or redemption transactions. The Fund has a limited number of institutions that may act as Authorized Participants on an agency basis (i.e., on behalf of other market participants). To the extent that Authorized Participants exit the business or are unable to proceed with creation or redemption orders with respect to the Fund and no other
Authorized Participant is able to step forward to create or redeem Creation Units (as defined in the Purchase and Sale of Fund Shares section of the Prospectus), Fund shares may be more likely to trade at a premium or discount to NAV and possibly face trading halts or delisting. Authorized Participant concentration risk may be heightened for exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”), such as the Fund, that invest in securities issued by non-U.S. issuers or other securities or instruments that have lower trading volumes.
Concentration Risk. The Fund may be susceptible to an increased risk of loss, including losses due to adverse events that affect the Fund’s investments more than the market as a whole, to the extent that the Fund's investments are concentrated in the securities and/or other assets of a particular issuer or issuers, country, group of countries, region, market, industry, group of industries, sector or asset class.
Consumer Discretionary Sector Risk. The consumer discretionary sector may be affected by changes in domestic and international economies, exchange and interest rates, competition, consumers' disposable income, consumer preferences, social trends and marketing campaigns.
Currency Risk. Because the Fund's NAV is determined in U.S. dollars, the Fund's NAV could decline if the currency of a non-U.S. market in which the Fund invests depreciates against the U.S. dollar or if there are delays or limits on repatriation of such currency. Currency exchange rates can be very volatile and can change quickly and unpredictably. As a result, the Fund's NAV may change quickly and without warning.
Custody Risk. Less developed securities markets are more likely to experience problems with the clearing and settling of trades, as well as the holding of securities by local banks, agents and depositories.
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Cybersecurity Risk. Failures or breaches of the electronic systems of the Fund, the Fund's adviser, distributor, the Index Provider and other service providers, market makers, Authorized Participants or the issuers of securities in which the Fund invests have the ability to cause disruptions, negatively impact the Fund’s business operations and/or potentially result in financial losses to the Fund and its shareholders. While the Fund has established business continuity plans and risk management systems seeking to address system breaches or failures, there are inherent limitations in such plans and systems. Furthermore, the Fund cannot control the cybersecurity plans and systems of the Fund’s Index Provider and other service providers, market makers, Authorized Participants or issuers of securities in which the Fund invests.
Equity Securities Risk. Equity securities are subject to changes in value, and their values may be more volatile than those of other asset classes. The Underlying Index is comprised of common stocks, which generally subject their holders to more risks than preferred stocks and debt securities because common stockholders’ claims are subordinated to those of holders of preferred stocks and debt securities upon the bankruptcy of the issuer.
ESG Investment Strategy Risk. The Fund’s ESG investment strategy limits the types and number of investment opportunities available to the Fund and, as a result, the Fund may underperform other funds that do not have an ESG focus. The Fund’s ESG investment strategy may result in the Fund investing in securities or industry sectors that underperform the market as a whole or underperform other funds screened for ESG standards. In addition, companies selected by the Index
Provider may not exhibit positive or favorable ESG characteristics.
Financials Sector Risk. Performance of companies in the financials sector may be adversely impacted by many factors, including, among others, changes in government regulations, economic conditions, and interest rates, credit rating downgrades, and decreased liquidity in credit markets. The extent to which the Fund may invest in a company that engages in securities-related activities or banking is limited by applicable law. The impact of changes in capital requirements and recent or future regulation of any individual financial company, or of the financials sector as a whole, cannot be predicted. In recent years, cyberattacks and technology malfunctions and failures have become increasingly frequent in this sector and have caused significant losses to companies in this sector, which may negatively impact the Fund.
Geographic Risk. A natural disaster could occur in a geographic region in which the Fund invests, which could adversely affect the economy or the business operations of companies in the specific geographic region, causing an adverse impact on the Fund's investments in, or which are exposed to, the affected region.
Index-Related Risk. There is no guarantee that the Fund’s investment results will have a high degree of correlation to those of the Underlying Index or that the Fund will achieve its investment objective. Market disruptions and regulatory restrictions could have an adverse effect on the Fund’s ability to adjust its exposure to the required levels in order to track the Underlying Index. Errors in index data, index computations or the construction of the Underlying Index in accordance with its methodology may occur from time to time and may not be identified and corrected by the Index Provider for a period of time or at all, which may
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have an adverse impact on the Fund and its shareholders. Unusual market conditions may cause the Index Provider to postpone a scheduled rebalance, which could cause the Underlying Index to vary from its normal or expected composition.
Infectious Illness Risk. An outbreak of an infectious respiratory illness, COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus has resulted in travel restrictions, disruption of healthcare systems, prolonged quarantines, cancellations, supply chain disruptions, lower consumer demand, layoffs, ratings downgrades, defaults and other significant economic impacts. Certain markets have experienced temporary closures, extreme volatility, severe losses, reduced liquidity and increased trading costs. These events will have an impact on the Fund and its investments and could impact the Fund’s ability to purchase or sell securities or cause elevated tracking error and increased premiums or discounts to the Fund’s NAV. Other infectious illness outbreaks in the future may result in similar impacts.
Information Technology Sector Risk. Information technology companies face intense competition and potentially rapid product obsolescence. They are also heavily dependent on intellectual property rights and may be adversely affected by the loss or impairment of those rights. Companies in the information technology sector are facing increased government and regulatory scrutiny and may be subject to adverse government or regulatory action. Companies in the software industry may be adversely affected by, among other things, the decline or fluctuation of subscription renewal rates for their products and services and actual or perceived vulnerabilities in their products or services.
Issuer Risk. The performance of the Fund depends on the performance of individual securities to which the Fund
has exposure. Changes in the financial condition or credit rating of an issuer of those securities may cause the value of the securities to decline.
Large-Capitalization Companies Risk. Large-capitalization companies may be less able than smaller capitalization companies to adapt to changing market conditions. Large-capitalization companies may be more mature and subject to more limited growth potential compared with smaller capitalization companies. During different market cycles, the performance of large-capitalization companies has trailed the overall performance of the broader securities markets.
Management Risk. As the Fund will not fully replicate the Underlying Index, it is subject to the risk that BFA's investment strategy may not produce the intended results.
Market Risk. The Fund could lose money over short periods due to short-term market movements and over longer periods during more prolonged market downturns. Local, regional or global events such as war, acts of terrorism, the spread of infectious illness or other public health issue, recessions, or other events could have a significant impact on the Fund and its investments and could result in increased premiums or discounts to the Fund’s NAV.
Market Trading Risk. The Fund faces numerous market trading risks, including the potential lack of an active market for Fund shares, losses from trading in secondary markets, periods of high volatility and disruptions in the creation/redemption process. ANY OF THESE FACTORS, AMONG OTHERS, MAY LEAD TO THE FUND'S SHARES TRADING AT A PREMIUM OR DISCOUNT TO NAV.
Mid-Capitalization Companies Risk. Compared to large-capitalization companies, mid-capitalization
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companies may be less stable and more susceptible to adverse developments. In addition, the securities of mid-capitalization companies may be more volatile and less liquid than those of large-capitalization companies.
National Closed Market Trading Risk. To the extent that the underlying securities and/or other assets held by the Fund trade on foreign exchanges or in foreign markets that may be closed when the securities exchange on which the Fund’s shares trade is open, there are likely to be deviations between the current price of such an underlying security and the last quoted price for the underlying security (i.e., the Fund’s quote from the closed foreign market). These deviations could result in premiums or discounts to the Fund’s NAV that may be greater than those experienced by other ETFs.
Non-Diversification Risk. The Fund may invest a large percentage of its assets in securities issued by or representing a small number of issuers. As a result, the Fund's performance may depend on the performance of a small number of issuers.
Non-U.S. Securities Risk. Investments in the securities of non-U.S. issuers are subject to the risks associated with investing in those non-U.S. markets, such as heightened risks of inflation or nationalization. The Fund may lose money due to political, economic and geographic events affecting issuers of non-U.S. securities or non-U.S. markets. In addition, non-U.S. securities markets may trade a small number of securities and may be unable to respond effectively to changes in trading volume, potentially making prompt liquidation of holdings difficult or impossible at times. The Fund is specifically exposed to Asian Economic Risk.
Operational Risk. The Fund is exposed to operational risks arising from a number of factors, including, but not
limited to, human error, processing and communication errors, errors of the Fund’s service providers, counterparties or other third-parties, failed or inadequate processes and technology or systems failures. The Fund and BFA seek to reduce these operational risks through controls and procedures. However, these measures do not address every possible risk and may be inadequate to address significant operational risks.
Passive Investment Risk. The Fund is not actively managed, and BFA generally does not attempt to take defensive positions under any market conditions, including declining markets.
Privatization Risk. Some countries in which the Fund invests have privatized, or have begun the process of privatizing, certain entities and industries. Privatized entities may lose money or be re-nationalized.
Reliance on Trading Partners Risk. The Fund invests in countries or regions whose economies are heavily dependent upon trading with key partners. Any reduction in this trading may have an adverse impact on the Fund's investments. Through its holdings of securities of certain issuers, the Fund is specifically exposed to Asian Economic Risk and U.S. Economic Risk.
Risk of Investing in China. Investments in Chinese securities, including certain Hong Kong-listed securities, subject the Fund to risks specific to China. Investments in certain Hong Kong-listed securities may also subject the Fund to exposure to Chinese companies. China may be subject to considerable degrees of economic, political and social instability. China is an emerging market and demonstrates significantly higher volatility from time to time in comparison to developed markets. Over the last few decades, the Chinese government has undertaken reform of
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economic and market practices and has expanded the sphere of private ownership of property in China. However, Chinese markets generally continue to experience inefficiency, volatility and pricing anomalies resulting from governmental influence, a lack of publicly available information and/or political and social instability. Internal social unrest or confrontations with other neighboring countries, including military conflicts in response to such events, may also disrupt economic development in China and result in a greater risk of currency fluctuations, currency non-convertibility, interest rate fluctuations and higher rates of inflation. China has experienced security concerns, such as terrorism and strained international relations. Additionally, China is alleged to have participated in state-sponsored cyberattacks against foreign companies and foreign governments. Actual and threatened responses to such activity, including purchasing restrictions, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Chinese government or Chinese companies, may impact China’s economy and Chinese issuers of securities in which the Fund invests. Incidents involving China's or the region's security may cause uncertainty in Chinese markets and may adversely affect the Chinese economy and the Fund's investments. Export growth continues to be a major driver of China's rapid economic growth. Reduction in spending on Chinese products and services, institution of additional tariffs or other trade barriers (including as a result of heightened trade tensions or a trade war between China and the U.S., or in response to actual or alleged Chinese cyber activity) or a downturn in any of the economies of China's key trading partners may have an adverse impact on the Chinese economy. Chinese companies, including Chinese companies that are listed on U.S. exchanges, are not subject to the
same degree of regulatory requirements, accounting standards or auditor oversight as companies in more developed countries, and as a result, information about the Chinese securities in which the Fund invests may be less reliable or complete. There may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against Chinese companies and shareholders may have limited legal remedies. The Fund is not actively managed and does not select investments based on investor protection considerations.
Risk of Investing in Emerging Markets. The Fund's investments in emerging market issuers may be subject to a greater risk of loss than investments in issuers located or operating in more developed markets. Emerging markets may be more likely to experience inflation, political turmoil and rapid changes in economic conditions than more developed markets. Companies in many emerging markets are not subject to the same degree of regulatory requirements, accounting standards or auditor oversight as companies in more developed countries, and as a result, information about the securities in which the Fund invests may be less reliable or complete. Emerging markets often have less reliable securities valuations and greater risk associated with custody of securities than developed markets. There may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against companies and shareholders may have limited legal remedies. The Fund is not actively managed and does not select investments based on investor protection considerations.
Risk of Investing in Russia. Investing in Russian securities involves significant risks, including legal, regulatory and economic risks that are specific to
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Russia. In addition, investing in Russian securities involves risks associated with the settlement of portfolio transactions and loss of the Fund’s ownership rights in its portfolio securities as a result of the system of share registration and custody in Russia. A number of jurisdictions, including the U.S., Canada and the European Union (the “EU”), have imposed economic sanctions on certain Russian individuals and Russian corporate entities. Additionally, Russia is alleged to have participated in state-sponsored cyberattacks against foreign companies and foreign governments. Actual and threatened responses to such activity, including purchasing restrictions, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Russian government or Russian companies, may impact Russia’s economy and Russian issuers of securities in which the Fund invests.
Risk of Investing in Saudi Arabia. The ability of foreign investors (such as the Fund) to invest in Saudi Arabian issuers is new and untested. Such ability could be restricted or revoked by the Saudi Arabian government at any time, and unforeseen risks could materialize due to foreign ownership in such securities. The economy of Saudi Arabia is dominated by petroleum exports. A sustained decrease in petroleum prices could have a negative impact on all aspects of the economy. Investments in securities of Saudi Arabian issuers involves risks not typically associated with investments in securities of issuers in more developed countries that may negatively affect the value of the Fund’s investments. Such heightened risks may include, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, restrictions on and government intervention in international trade, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision making, armed conflict, crime and instability as a result of religious,
ethnic and/or socioeconomic unrest. There remains the possibility that instability in the larger Middle East region could adversely impact the economy of Saudi Arabia, and there is no assurance of political stability in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia Broker Risk. There are a number of different ways of conducting transactions in equity securities in the Saudi Arabian market. The Fund generally expects to conduct its transactions in a manner in which the Fund would not be limited by Saudi Arabian regulations to a single broker. However, there may be a limited number of brokers who can provide services to the Fund, which may have an adverse impact on the prices, quantity or timing of Fund transactions.
Securities Lending Risk. The Fund may engage in securities lending. Securities lending involves the risk that the Fund may lose money because the borrower of the loaned securities fails to return the securities in a timely manner or at all. The Fund could also lose money in the event of a decline in the value of collateral provided for loaned securities or a decline in the value of any investments made with cash collateral. These events could also trigger adverse tax consequences for the Fund.
Security Risk. Some countries and regions in which the Fund invests have experienced security concerns, such as terrorism and strained international relations. Incidents involving a country's or region's security may cause uncertainty in its markets and may adversely affect its economy and the Fund's investments.
Small Fund Risk. When the Fund’s size is small, the Fund may experience low trading volume and wide bid/ask spreads. In addition, the Fund may face the risk of being delisted if the Fund does not meet certain conditions of the listing exchange. Any resulting liquidation of the Fund could cause the
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Fund to incur elevated transaction costs for the Fund and negative tax consequences for its shareholders.
Structural Risk. The countries in which the Fund invests may be subject to considerable degrees of economic, political and social instability.
Tracking Error Risk. The Fund may be subject to tracking error, which is the divergence of the Fund’s performance from that of the Underlying Index. Tracking error may occur because of differences between the securities and other instruments held in the Fund’s portfolio and those included in the Underlying Index, pricing differences (including, as applicable, differences between a security’s price at the local market close and the Fund's valuation of a security at the time of calculation of the Fund's NAV), transaction costs incurred by the Fund, the Fund’s holding of uninvested cash, differences in timing of the accrual of or the valuation of dividends or interest, the requirements to maintain pass-through tax treatment, portfolio transactions carried out to minimize the distribution of capital gains to shareholders, changes to the Underlying Index or the costs to the Fund of complying with various new or existing regulatory requirements. This risk may be heightened during times of increased market volatility or other unusual market conditions. Tracking error also may result because the Fund incurs fees and expenses, while the Underlying Index does not. INDEX ETFs THAT TRACK INDICES WITH SIGNIFICANT WEIGHT IN EMERGING MARKETS
ISSUERS MAY EXPERIENCE HIGHER TRACKING ERROR THAN OTHER INDEX ETFs THAT DO NOT TRACK SUCH INDICES.
Valuation Risk. The price the Fund could receive upon the sale of a security or other asset may differ from the Fund's valuation of the security or other asset and from the value used by the Underlying Index, particularly for securities or other assets that trade in low volume or volatile markets or that are valued using a fair value methodology as a result of trade suspensions or for other reasons. In addition, the value of the securities or other assets in the Fund's portfolio may change on days or during time periods when shareholders will not be able to purchase or sell the Fund's shares. Authorized Participants who purchase or redeem Fund shares on days when the Fund is holding fair-valued securities may receive fewer or more shares, or lower or higher redemption proceeds, than they would have received had the Fund not fair-valued securities or used a different valuation methodology. The Fund’s ability to value investments may be impacted by technological issues or errors by pricing services or other third-party service providers.
Performance Information
As of the date of the Prospectus, the Fund has been in operation for less than one full calendar year and therefore does not report its performance information.
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Management
Investment Adviser. BlackRock Fund Advisors.
Portfolio Managers. Rachel Aguirre, Jennifer Hsui, Alan Mason, Greg Savage and Amy Whitelaw (the “Portfolio Managers”) are primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of the Fund. Each Portfolio Manager supervises a portfolio management team. Ms. Aguirre, Ms. Hsui, Mr. Mason, Mr. Savage and Ms. Whitelaw have been Portfolio Managers of the Fund since inception (2020).
Purchase and Sale of Fund Shares
The Fund is an ETF. Individual shares of the Fund are listed on a national securities exchange. Most investors will buy and sell shares of the Fund through a broker-dealer. The price of Fund shares is based on market price, and because ETF shares trade at market prices rather than at NAV, shares may trade at a price greater than NAV (a premium) or less than NAV (a discount). The Fund will only issue or redeem shares that have been aggregated into blocks of 100,000 shares or multiples thereof (“Creation Units”) to Authorized Participants who have entered into agreements with the Fund's distributor. The Fund generally will issue or redeem Creation Units in return for a designated portfolio of securities (and an amount of cash) that the Fund specifies each day.
Tax Information
The Fund intends to make distributions that may be taxable to you as ordinary income or capital gains, unless you are investing through a tax-deferred arrangement such as a 401(k) plan or an individual retirement account (“IRA”), in which case, your distributions generally will be taxed when withdrawn.
Payments to Broker-Dealers and Other Financial Intermediaries
If you purchase shares of the Fund through a broker-dealer or other financial intermediary (such as a bank), BFA or other related companies may pay the intermediary for marketing activities and presentations, educational training programs, conferences, the development of technology platforms and reporting systems or other services related to the sale or promotion of the Fund. These payments may create a conflict of interest by influencing the broker-dealer or other intermediary and your salesperson to recommend the Fund over another investment. Ask your salesperson or visit your financial intermediary’s website for more information.
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More Information About the Fund
This Prospectus contains important information about investing in the Fund. Please read this Prospectus carefully before you make any investment decisions. Additional information regarding the Fund is available at www.iShares.com.
BFA is the investment adviser to the Fund. Shares of the Fund are listed for trading on The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (“NASDAQ”). The market price for a share of the Fund may be different from the Fund’s most recent NAV.
ETFs are funds that trade like other publicly-traded securities. The Fund is designed to track an index. Similar to shares of an index mutual fund, each share of the Fund represents an ownership interest in an underlying portfolio of securities and other instruments intended to track a market index. Unlike shares of a mutual fund, which can be bought and redeemed from the issuing fund by all shareholders at a price based on NAV, shares of the Fund may be purchased or redeemed directly from the Fund at NAV solely by Authorized Participants and only in Creation Unit increments. Also unlike shares of a mutual fund, shares of the Fund are listed on a national securities exchange and trade in the secondary market at market prices that change throughout the day.
The Fund invests in a particular segment of the securities markets and seeks to track the performance of a securities index that is not representative of the market as a whole. The Fund is designed to be used as part of broader asset allocation strategies. Accordingly, an investment in the Fund should not constitute a complete investment program.
An index is a financial calculation, based on a grouping of financial instruments, and is not an investment product, while the Fund is an actual investment portfolio. The performance of the Fund and the Underlying Index may vary for a number of reasons, including transaction costs, non-U.S. currency valuations, asset valuations, corporate actions (such as mergers and spin-offs), timing variances and differences between the Fund’s portfolio and the Underlying Index resulting from the Fund's use of representative sampling or from legal restrictions (such as diversification requirements) that apply to the Fund but not to the Underlying Index. From time to time, the Index Provider may make changes to the methodology or other adjustments to the Underlying Index. Unless otherwise determined by BFA, any such change or adjustment will be reflected in the calculation of the Underlying Index performance on a going-forward basis after the effective date of such change or adjustment. Therefore, the Underlying Index performance shown for periods prior to the effective date of any such change or adjustment will generally not be recalculated or restated to reflect such change or adjustment.
“Tracking error” is the divergence of the Fund's performance from that of the Underlying Index. BFA expects that, over time, the Fund’s tracking error will not exceed 5%. Because the Fund uses a representative sampling indexing strategy, it can be expected to have a larger tracking error than if it used a replication indexing strategy. “Replication” is an indexing strategy in which a fund invests in substantially all of the
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securities in its underlying index in approximately the same proportions as in the underlying index.
Under continuous listing standards adopted by the Fund's listing exchange, the Fund is required to confirm on an ongoing basis that the components of the Underlying Index satisfy the applicable listing requirements. In the event that the Underlying Index does not comply with the applicable listing requirements, the Fund is required to rectify such non-compliance by requesting that the Index Provider modify the Underlying Index, adopting a new underlying index, or obtaining relief from the SEC. Failure to rectify such non-compliance may result in the Fund being delisted by the listing exchange.
The Fund may borrow as a temporary measure for extraordinary or emergency purposes, including to meet redemptions or to facilitate the settlement of securities or other transactions. The Fund does not intend to borrow money in order to leverage its portfolio.
An investment in the Fund is not a bank deposit and it is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency, BFA or any of its affiliates.
The Fund's investment objective and the Underlying Index may be changed without shareholder approval.
A Further Discussion of Principal Risks
The Fund is subject to various risks, including the principal risks noted below, any of which may adversely affect the Fund’s NAV, trading price, yield, total return and ability to meet its investment objective. You could lose all or part of your investment in the Fund, and the Fund could underperform other investments. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
Asian Economic Risk. Many Asian economies have experienced rapid growth and industrialization in recent years, but there is no assurance that this growth rate will be maintained. Other Asian economies, however, have experienced high inflation, high unemployment, currency devaluations and restrictions, and over-extension of credit. Geopolitical hostility, political instability, and economic or environmental events in any one Asian country may have a significant economic effect on the entire Asian region, as well as on major trading partners outside Asia. Any adverse event in the Asian markets may have a significant adverse effect on some or all of the economies of the countries in which the Fund invests. Many Asian countries are subject to political risk, including political instability, corruption and regional conflict with neighboring countries. North Korea and South Korea each have substantial military capabilities, and historical tensions between the two countries present the risk of war. Escalated tensions involving the two countries and any outbreak of hostilities between the two countries, or even the threat of an outbreak of hostilities, could have a severe adverse effect on the entire Asian region. Certain Asian countries have developed increasingly strained relationships with the U.S., and if these relations were to worsen, they could adversely affect Asian issuers that rely on the U.S. for trade. In addition, many Asian countries are subject to social and labor risks associated with demands for improved
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political, economic and social conditions. These risks, among others, may adversely affect the value of the Fund's investments.
Asset Class Risk. The securities and other assets in the Underlying Index or in the Fund’s portfolio may underperform in comparison to other securities or indexes that track other countries, groups of countries, regions, industries, groups of industries, markets, asset classes or sectors. Various types of securities, currencies and indexes may experience cycles of outperformance and underperformance in comparison to the general financial markets depending upon a number of factors including, among other things, inflation, interest rates, productivity, global demand for local products or resources, and regulation and governmental controls. This may cause the Fund to underperform other investment vehicles that invest in different asset classes. Securities of companies that have positive or favorable ESG characteristics may underperform other securities.
Assets Under Management (AUM) Risk. From time to time, an Authorized Participant, a third-party investor, the Fund’s adviser or an affiliate of the Fund’s adviser, or a fund may invest in the Fund and hold its investment for a specific period of time to allow the Fund to achieve size or scale. There can be no assurance that any such entity would not redeem its investment or that the size of the Fund would be maintained at such levels, which could negatively impact the Fund.
Authorized Participant Concentration Risk. Only an Authorized Participant may engage in creation or redemption transactions directly with the Fund, and none of those Authorized Participants is obligated to engage in creation and/or redemption transactions. The Fund has a limited number of institutions that may act as Authorized Participants on an agency basis (i.e., on behalf of other market participants). To the extent that Authorized Participants exit the business or are unable to proceed with creation or redemption orders with respect to the Fund and no other Authorized Participant is able to step forward to create or redeem Creation Units, Fund shares may be more likely to trade at a premium or discount to NAV and possibly face trading halts or delisting. Authorized Participant concentration risk may be heightened because ETFs, such as the Fund, that invest in securities issued by non-U.S. issuers or other securities or instruments that are less widely traded often involve greater settlement and operational issues and capital costs for Authorized Participants, which may limit the availability of Authorized Participants.
Concentration Risk. The Fund may be susceptible to an increased risk of loss, including losses due to adverse events that affect the Fund’s investments more than the market as a whole, to the extent that the Fund's investments are concentrated in the securities and/or other assets of a particular issuer or issuers, country, group of countries, region, market, industry, group of industries, sector or asset class. The Fund may be more adversely affected by the underperformance of those securities and/or other assets, may experience increased price volatility and may be more susceptible to adverse economic, market, political or regulatory occurrences affecting those securities and/or other assets than a fund that does not concentrate its investments.
Consumer Discretionary Sector Risk. The success of consumer product manufacturers and retailers is tied closely to the performance of domestic and international economies, interest rates, exchange rates, competition, consumer
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confidence, changes in demographics and consumer preferences. Companies in the consumer discretionary sector depend heavily on disposable household income and consumer spending, and may be strongly affected by social trends and marketing campaigns. These companies may be subject to severe competition, which may have an adverse impact on their profitability.
Currency Risk. Because the Fund's NAV is determined on the basis of the U.S. dollar, investors may lose money if the currency of a non-U.S. market in which the Fund invests depreciates against the U.S. dollar or if there are delays or limits on repatriation of such currency, even if such currency value of the Fund's holdings in that market increases. Currency exchange rates can be very volatile and can change quickly and unpredictably. As a result, the Fund’s NAV may change quickly and without warning.
Custody Risk. Custody risk refers to the risks inherent in the process of clearing and settling trades, as well as the holding of securities by local banks, agents and depositories. Low trading volumes and volatile prices in less developed markets may make trades harder to complete and settle, and governments or trade groups may compel local agents to hold securities in designated depositories that may not be subject to independent evaluation. Local agents are held only to the standards of care of their local markets. In general, the less developed a country’s securities markets are, the higher the degree of custody risk.
Cybersecurity Risk. With the increased use of technologies such as the internet to conduct business, the Fund, Authorized Participants, service providers and the relevant listing exchange are susceptible to operational, information security and related “cyber” risks both directly and through their service providers. Similar types of cybersecurity risks are also present for issuers of securities in which the Fund invests, which could result in material adverse consequences for such issuers and may cause the Fund’s investment in such portfolio companies to lose value. Unlike many other types of risks faced by the Fund, these risks typically are not covered by insurance. In general, cyber incidents can result from deliberate attacks or unintentional events. Cyber incidents include, but are not limited to, gaining unauthorized access to digital systems (e.g., through “hacking” or malicious software coding) for purposes of misappropriating assets or sensitive information, corrupting data, or causing operational disruption. Cyberattacks may also be carried out in a manner that does not require gaining unauthorized access, such as causing denial-of-service attacks on websites (i.e., efforts to make network services unavailable to intended users). Recently, geopolitical tensions may have increased the scale and sophistication of deliberate attacks, particularly those from nation-states or from entities with nation-state backing.
Cybersecurity failures by or breaches of the systems of the Fund’s adviser, distributor and other service providers (including, but not limited to, index and benchmark providers, fund accountants, custodians, transfer agents and administrators), market makers, Authorized Participants or the issuers of securities in which the Fund invests, have the ability to cause disruptions and impact business operations, potentially resulting in: financial losses, interference with the Fund’s ability to calculate its NAV, disclosure of confidential trading information, impediments to trading, submission of
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erroneous trades or erroneous creation or redemption orders, the inability of the Fund or its service providers to transact business, violations of applicable privacy and other laws, regulatory fines, penalties, reputational damage, reimbursement or other compensation costs, or additional compliance costs. In addition, cyberattacks may render records of Fund assets and transactions, shareholder ownership of Fund shares, and other data integral to the functioning of the Fund inaccessible or inaccurate or incomplete. Substantial costs may be incurred by the Fund in order to resolve or prevent cyber incidents in the future. While the Fund has established business continuity plans in the event of, and risk management systems to prevent, such cyber incidents, there are inherent limitations in such plans and systems, including the possibility that certain risks have not been identified and that prevention and remediation efforts will not be successful or that cyberattacks will go undetected. Furthermore, the Fund cannot control the cybersecurity plans and systems put in place by service providers to the Fund, issuers in which the Fund invests, the Index Provider, market makers or Authorized Participants. The Fund and its shareholders could be negatively impacted as a result.
Equity Securities Risk. The Fund invests in equity securities, which are subject to changes in value that may be attributable to market perception of a particular issuer or to general stock market fluctuations that affect all issuers. Investments in equity securities may be more volatile than investments in other asset classes. The Underlying Index is comprised of common stocks, which generally subject their holders to more risks than preferred stocks and debt securities because common stockholders' claims are subordinated to those of holders of preferred stocks and debt securities upon the bankruptcy of the issuer.
ESG Investment Strategy Risk. The Fund’s ESG investment strategy limits the types and number of investment opportunities available to the Fund and, as a result, the Fund may underperform other funds that do not have an ESG focus. The Fund’s ESG investment strategy may result in the Fund investing in securities or industry sectors that underperform the market as a whole or underperform other funds screened for ESG standards. In addition, companies selected by the Index Provider may not exhibit positive or favorable ESG characteristics.
Financials Sector Risk. Companies in the financials sector of an economy are subject to extensive governmental regulation and intervention, which may adversely affect the scope of their activities, the prices they can charge, the amount of capital they must maintain and, potentially, their size. The extent to which the Fund may invest in a company that engages in securities-related activities or banking is limited by applicable law. Governmental regulation may change frequently and may have significant adverse consequences for companies in the financials sector, including effects not intended by such regulation. Recently enacted legislation in the U.S. has relaxed capital requirements and other regulatory burdens on certain U.S. banks. While the effect of the legislation may benefit certain companies in the financials sector, including non-U.S. financials sector companies, increased risk taking by affected banks may also result in greater overall risk in the U.S. and global financials sector. The impact of changes in capital requirements, or recent or future regulation in various countries, on any individual financial company or on the financials sector as a whole
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cannot be predicted. Certain risks may impact the value of investments in the financials sector more severely than those of investments outside this sector, including the risks associated with companies that operate with substantial financial leverage. Companies in the financials sector may also be adversely affected by increases in interest rates and loan losses, decreases in the availability of money or asset valuations, credit rating downgrades and adverse conditions in other related markets. Insurance companies, in particular, may be subject to severe price competition and/or rate regulation, which may have an adverse impact on their profitability. The financials sector is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in interest rates. The financials sector is also a target for cyberattacks, and may experience technology malfunctions and disruptions. In recent years, cyberattacks and technology malfunctions and failures have become increasingly frequent in this sector and have reportedly caused losses to companies in this sector, which may negatively impact the Fund.
Geographic Risk. Some of the companies in which the Fund invests are located in parts of the world that have historically been prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, hurricanes or tsunamis, and are economically sensitive to environmental events. Any such event may adversely impact the economies of these geographic areas or business operations of companies in these geographic areas, causing an adverse impact on the value of the Fund.
Index-Related Risk. The Fund seeks to achieve a return that corresponds generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Underlying Index as published by the Index Provider. There is no assurance that the Index Provider or any agents that may act on its behalf will compile the Underlying Index accurately, or that the Underlying Index will be determined, composed or calculated accurately. While the Index Provider provides descriptions of what the Underlying Index is designed to achieve, neither the Index Provider nor its agents provide any warranty or accept any liability in relation to the quality, accuracy or completeness of the Underlying Index or its related data, and they do not guarantee that the Underlying Index will be in line with the Index Provider’s methodology. BFA’s mandate as described in this Prospectus is to manage the Fund consistently with the Underlying Index provided by the Index Provider to BFA. BFA does not provide any warranty or guarantee against the Index Provider’s or any agent’s errors. Errors in respect of the quality, accuracy and completeness of the data used to compile the Underlying Index may occur from time to time and may not be identified and corrected by the Index Provider for a period of time or at all, particularly where the indices are less commonly used as benchmarks by funds or managers. In addition, there may be heightened risks associated with the adequacy and reliability of the information the Index Provider uses given the Fund's exposure to emerging markets, as certain emerging markets may have less information available or less regulatory oversight. Such errors may negatively or positively impact the Fund and its shareholders. For example, during a period where the Underlying Index contains incorrect constituents, the Fund would have market exposure to such constituents and would be underexposed to the Underlying Index’s other constituents. Shareholders should understand that any gains from Index Provider errors will be kept by the Fund and its shareholders and any losses or costs resulting from Index Provider errors will be borne by the Fund and its shareholders.
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Unusual market conditions may cause the Index Provider to postpone a scheduled rebalance, which could cause the Underlying Index to vary from its normal or expected composition. The postponement of a scheduled rebalance in a time of market volatility could mean that constituents that would otherwise be removed at rebalance due to changes in market capitalizations, issuer credit ratings, or other reasons may remain, causing the performance and constituents of the Underlying Index to vary from those expected under normal conditions. Apart from scheduled rebalances, the Index Provider or its agents may carry out additional ad hoc rebalances to the Underlying Index due to reaching certain weighting constraints, unusual market conditions or in order, for example, to correct an error in the selection of index constituents. When the Underlying Index is rebalanced and the Fund in turn rebalances its portfolio to attempt to increase the correlation between the Fund’s portfolio and the Underlying Index, any transaction costs and market exposure arising from such portfolio rebalancing will be borne directly by the Fund and its shareholders. Therefore, errors and additional ad hoc rebalances carried out by the Index Provider or its agents to the Underlying Index may increase the costs to and the tracking error risk of the Fund.
Infectious Illness Risk. An outbreak of an infectious respiratory illness, COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus that was first detected in December 2019 has spread globally. The impact of this outbreak has adversely affected the economies of many nations and the global economy, and may impact individual issuers and capital markets in ways that cannot be foreseen. The duration of the outbreak and its effects cannot be predicted with certainty. Any market or economic disruption can be expected to result in elevated tracking error and increased premiums or discounts to the Fund’s NAV.
General Impact. This outbreak has resulted in travel restrictions, closed international borders, enhanced health screenings at ports of entry and elsewhere, disruption of and delays in healthcare service preparation and delivery, prolonged quarantines, cancellations, supply chain disruptions, lower consumer demand, temporary closures of stores, restaurants and other commercial establishments, layoffs, defaults and other significant economic impacts, as well as general concern and uncertainty.
Market Volatility. The outbreak has also resulted in extreme volatility, severe losses, and disruptions in markets which can adversely impact the Fund and its investments, including impairing hedging activity to the extent a Fund engages in such activity, as expected correlations between related markets or instruments may no longer apply. In addition, to the extent the Fund invests in short-term instruments that have negative yields, the Fund’s value may be impaired as a result. Certain issuers of equity securities have cancelled or announced the suspension of dividends. The outbreak has, and may continue to, negatively affect the credit ratings of some fixed income securities and their issuers.
Market Closures. Certain local markets have been or may be subject to closures, and there can be no assurance that trading will continue in any local markets in which the Fund may invest, when any resumption of trading will occur or, once such markets resume trading, whether they will face further closures. Any suspension of
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  trading in markets in which the Fund invests will have an impact on the Fund and its investments and will impact the Fund’s ability to purchase or sell securities in such markets.
Operational Risk. The outbreak could also impair the information technology and other operational systems upon which the Fund’s service providers, including BFA, rely, and could otherwise disrupt the ability of employees of the Fund’s service providers to perform critical tasks relating to the Fund, for example, due to the service providers’ employees performing tasks in alternate locations than under normal operating conditions or the illness of certain employees of the Fund’s service providers.
Governmental Interventions. Governmental and quasi-governmental authorities and regulators throughout the world have responded to the outbreak and the resulting economic disruptions with a variety of fiscal and monetary policy changes, including direct capital infusions into companies and other issuers, new monetary policy tools, and lower interest rates. An unexpected or sudden reversal of these policies, or the ineffectiveness of such policies, is likely to increase market volatility, which could adversely affect the Fund’s investments.
Pre-Existing Conditions. Public health crises caused by the outbreak may exacerbate other pre-existing political, social and economic risks in certain countries or globally.
Other infectious illness outbreaks that may arise in the future could have similar or other unforeseen effects.
Information Technology Sector Risk. Information technology companies face intense competition which may have an adverse effect on their profit margins. Like other technology companies, information technology companies may have limited product lines, markets, financial resources or personnel. The products of information technology companies may face obsolescence due to rapid technological developments, frequent new product introduction, unpredictable changes in growth rates and competition for the services of qualified personnel. Companies in the information technology sector are heavily dependent on patent and intellectual property rights. The loss or impairment of these rights may adversely affect the profitability of these companies. Companies in the information technology sector are facing increased government and regulatory scrutiny and may be subject to adverse government or regulatory action. Companies in the application software industry, in particular, may also be negatively affected by the decline or fluctuation of subscription renewal rates for their products and services, which may have an adverse effect on profit margins. Companies in the systems software industry may be adversely affected by, among other things, actual or perceived security vulnerabilities in their products and services, which may result in individual or class action lawsuits, state or federal enforcement actions and other remediation costs.
Issuer Risk. The performance of the Fund depends on the performance of individual securities to which the Fund has exposure. Any issuer of these securities may perform poorly, causing the value of its securities to decline. Poor performance may be caused by poor management decisions, competitive pressures, changes in technology, expiration of patent protection, disruptions in supply, labor problems or shortages,
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corporate restructurings, fraudulent disclosures, credit deterioration of the issuer or other factors. Issuers may, in times of distress or at their own discretion, decide to reduce or eliminate dividends, which may also cause their stock prices to decline. An issuer may also be subject to risks associated with the countries, states and regions in which the issuer resides, invests, sells products, or otherwise conducts operations.
Large-Capitalization Companies Risk. Large-capitalization companies may be less able than smaller capitalization companies to adapt to changing market conditions. Large-capitalization companies may be more mature and subject to more limited growth potential compared with smaller capitalization companies. During different market cycles, the performance of large-capitalization companies has trailed the overall performance of the broader securities markets.
Management Risk. Because BFA uses a representative sampling indexing strategy, the Fund will not fully replicate the Underlying Index and may hold securities not included in the Underlying Index. As a result, the Fund is subject to the risk that BFA’s investment strategy, the implementation of which is subject to a number of constraints, may not produce the intended results.
Market Risk. The Fund could lose money over short periods due to short-term market movements and over longer periods during more prolonged market downturns. The value of a security or other asset may decline due to changes in general market conditions, economic trends or events that are not specifically related to the issuer of the security or other asset, or factors that affect a particular issuer or issuers,  exchange, country, group of countries, region, market, industry, group of industries, sector or asset class. Local, regional or global events such as war, acts of terrorism, the spread of infectious illness or other public health issue, recessions, or other events could have a significant impact on the Fund and its investments and could result in increased premiums or discounts to the Fund’s NAV. During a general market downturn, multiple asset classes may be negatively affected. Changes in market conditions and interest rates generally do not have the same impact on all types of securities and instruments.
Market Trading Risk
Absence of Active Market. Although shares of the Fund are listed for trading on one or more stock exchanges, there can be no assurance that an active trading market for such shares will develop or be maintained by market makers or Authorized Participants.
Risk of Secondary Listings. The Fund's shares may be listed or traded on U.S. and non-U.S. stock exchanges other than the U.S. stock exchange where the Fund's primary listing is maintained, and may otherwise be made available to non-U.S. investors through funds or structured investment vehicles similar to depositary receipts. There can be no assurance that the Fund’s shares will continue to trade on any such stock exchange or in any market or that the Fund’s shares will continue to meet the requirements for listing or trading on any exchange or in any market. The Fund's shares may be less actively traded in certain markets than in others, and investors are subject to the execution and settlement risks and market standards of the market where they or their broker direct their trades for execution. Certain information available to
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investors who trade Fund shares on a U.S. stock exchange during regular U.S. market hours may not be available to investors who trade in other markets, which may result in secondary market prices in such markets being less efficient.
Secondary Market Trading Risk. Shares of the Fund may trade in the secondary market at times when the Fund does not accept orders to purchase or redeem shares. At such times, shares may trade in the secondary market with more significant premiums or discounts than might be experienced at times when the Fund accepts purchase and redemption orders.
Secondary market trading in Fund shares may be halted by a stock exchange because of market conditions or for other reasons. In addition, trading in Fund shares on a stock exchange or in any market may be subject to trading halts caused by extraordinary market volatility pursuant to “circuit breaker” rules on the stock exchange or market.
Shares of the Fund, similar to shares of other issuers listed on a stock exchange, may be sold short and are therefore subject to the risk of increased volatility and price decreases associated with being sold short.
Shares of the Fund May Trade at Prices Other Than NAV. Shares of the Fund trade on stock exchanges at prices at, above or below the Fund’s most recent NAV. The NAV of the Fund is calculated at the end of each business day and fluctuates with changes in the market value of the Fund’s holdings. The trading price of the Fund's shares fluctuates continuously throughout trading hours based on both market supply of and demand for Fund shares and the underlying value of the Fund's portfolio holdings or NAV. As a result, the trading prices of the Fund’s shares may deviate significantly from NAV during periods of market volatility. ANY OF THESE FACTORS, AMONG OTHERS, MAY LEAD TO THE FUND'S SHARES TRADING AT A PREMIUM OR DISCOUNT TO NAV. However, because shares can be created and redeemed in Creation Units at NAV, BFA believes that large discounts or premiums to the NAV of the Fund are not likely to be sustained over the long term (unlike shares of many closed-end funds, which frequently trade at appreciable discounts from, and sometimes at premiums to, their NAVs). While the creation/redemption feature is designed to make it more likely that the Fund’s shares normally will trade on stock exchanges at prices close to the Fund’s next calculated NAV, exchange prices are not expected to correlate exactly with the Fund's NAV due to timing reasons, supply and demand imbalances and other factors. In addition, disruptions to creations and redemptions, including disruptions at market makers, Authorized Participants, or other market participants, and during periods of significant market volatility, may result in trading prices for shares of the Fund that differ significantly from its NAV. Authorized Participants may be less willing to create or redeem Fund shares if there is a lack of an active market for such shares or its underlying investments, which may contribute to the Fund’s shares trading at a premium or discount to NAV.
Costs of Buying or Selling Fund Shares. Buying or selling Fund shares on an exchange involves two types of costs that apply to all securities transactions. When buying or selling shares of the Fund through a broker, you will likely incur a brokerage commission and other charges. In addition, you may incur the cost of the “spread”; that is, the difference between what investors are willing to pay for Fund shares (the
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“bid” price) and the price at which they are willing to sell Fund shares (the “ask” price). The spread, which varies over time for shares of the Fund based on trading volume and market liquidity, is generally narrower if the Fund has more trading volume and market liquidity and wider if the Fund has less trading volume and market liquidity. In addition, increased market volatility may cause wider spreads. There may also be regulatory and other charges that are incurred as a result of trading activity. Because of the costs inherent in buying or selling Fund shares, frequent trading may detract significantly from investment results and an investment in Fund shares may not be advisable for investors who anticipate regularly making small investments through a brokerage account.
Mid-Capitalization Companies Risk. Stock prices of mid-capitalization companies may be more volatile than those of large-capitalization companies and, therefore, the Fund’s share price may be more volatile than those of funds that invest a larger percentage of their assets in stocks issued by large-capitalization companies. Stock prices of mid-capitalization companies are also more vulnerable than those of large-capitalization companies to adverse business or economic developments, and the stocks of mid-capitalization companies may be less liquid than those of large-capitalization companies, making it difficult for the Fund to buy and sell shares of mid-capitalization companies. In addition, mid-capitalization companies generally have less diverse product lines than large-capitalization companies and are more susceptible to adverse developments related to their products.
National Closed Market Trading Risk. To the extent that the underlying securities and/or other assets held by the Fund trade on foreign exchanges or in foreign markets that may be closed when the securities exchange on which the Fund’s shares trade is open, there are likely to be deviations between the current price of an underlying security and the last quoted price for the underlying security (i.e., the Fund’s quote from the closed foreign market). These deviations could result in premiums or discounts to the Fund’s NAV that may be greater than those experienced by other ETFs.
Non-Diversification Risk. The Fund is classified as “non-diversified.” This means that the Fund may invest a large percentage of its assets in securities issued by or representing a small number of issuers. As a result, the Fund may be more susceptible to the risks associated with these particular issuers or to a single economic, political or regulatory occurrence affecting these issuers.
Non-U.S. Securities Risk. Investments in the securities of non-U.S. issuers are subject to the risks of investing in the markets where such issuers are located, including heightened risks of inflation, nationalization and market fluctuations caused by economic and political developments. As a result of investing in non-U.S. securities, the Fund may be subject to increased risk of loss caused by any of the factors listed below:
A lack of market liquidity and market efficiency;
Greater securities price volatility;
Exchange rate fluctuations and exchange controls;
Less availability of public information about issuers;
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Limitations on foreign ownership of securities;
Imposition of withholding or other taxes;
Imposition of restrictions on the expatriation of the funds or other assets of the Fund;
Higher transaction and custody costs and delays in settlement procedures;
Difficulties in enforcing contractual obligations;
Lower levels of regulation of the securities markets;
Weaker accounting, disclosure and reporting requirements; and
Legal principles relating to corporate governance, directors’ fiduciary duties and liabilities and stockholders’ rights in markets in which the Fund invests may differ from and/or may not be as extensive or protective as those that apply in the U.S.
Withholding Tax Reclaims Risk. The Fund may file claims to recover withholding tax on dividend and interest income (if any) received from issuers in certain countries where such withholding tax reclaim is possible. Whether or when the Fund will receive a withholding tax refund in the future is within the control of the tax authorities in such countries. Where the Fund expects to recover withholding tax based on a continuous assessment of probability of recovery, the NAV of the Fund generally includes accruals for such tax refunds. The Fund continues to evaluate tax developments for potential impact to the probability of recovery. If the likelihood of receiving refunds materially decreases, for example due to a change in tax regulation or approach, accruals in the Fund’s NAV for such refunds may need to be written down partially or in full, which will adversely affect that Fund’s NAV. Investors in the Fund at the time an accrual is written down will bear the impact of any resulting reduction in NAV regardless of whether they were investors during the accrual period. Conversely, if a Fund receives a tax refund that has not been previously accrued, investors in the Fund at the time the claim is successful will benefit from any resulting increase in the Fund’s NAV. Investors who sold their shares prior to such time will not benefit from such NAV increase.
Operational Risk. The Fund is exposed to operational risks arising from a number of factors, including, but not limited to, human error, processing and communication errors, errors of the Fund's service providers, counterparties or other third-parties, failed or inadequate processes and technology or systems failures. The Fund and BFA seek to reduce these operational risks through controls and procedures. However, these measures do not address every possible risk and may be inadequate to address significant operational risks.
Passive Investment Risk. The Fund is not actively managed and may be affected by a general decline in market segments related to the Underlying Index. The Fund invests in securities included in, or representative of, the Underlying Index, regardless of their investment merits. BFA generally does not attempt to invest the Fund's assets in defensive positions under any market conditions, including declining markets.
Privatization Risk. Some countries in which the Fund invests have privatized, or have begun the process of privatizing, certain entities and industries. Newly privatized companies may face strong competition from government-sponsored competitors that have not been privatized. In some instances, investors in newly privatized entities have
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suffered losses due to the inability of the newly privatized entities to adjust quickly to a competitive environment or changing regulatory and legal standards or, in some cases, due to re-nationalization of such privatized entities. There is no assurance that similar losses will not recur.
Reliance on Trading Partners Risk. Economies in emerging market countries generally are heavily dependent upon commodity prices and international trade. Accordingly, these countries have been, and may continue to be, affected adversely by the economies of their trading partners, trade barriers, exchange controls or managed adjustments in relative currency values and may suffer from extreme and volatile debt burdens or inflation rates. These countries may be subject to other protectionist measures imposed or negotiated by the countries with which they trade.
Risk of Investing in China. Investments in Chinese securities, including certain Hong Kong-listed securities, subject the Fund to risks specific to China. The Chinese economy is subject to a considerable degree of economic, political and social instability. Investments in certain Hong Kong-listed securities may also subject the Fund to exposure to Chinese companies.
Political and Social Risk. The Chinese government is authoritarian and has periodically used force to suppress civil dissent. Disparities of wealth and the pace of economic liberalization may lead to social turmoil, violence and labor unrest. In addition, China continues to experience disagreements related to integration with Hong Kong and religious and nationalist disputes in Tibet and Xinjiang. There is also a greater risk in China than in many other countries of currency fluctuations, currency non-convertibility, interest rate fluctuations and higher rates of inflation as a result of internal social unrest or conflicts with other countries. Unanticipated political or social developments may result in sudden and significant investment losses. China's growing income inequality, rapidly aging population and significant environmental issues also are factors that may affect the Chinese economy.
Government Control and Regulations. The Chinese government has implemented significant economic reforms in order to liberalize trade policy, promote foreign investment in the economy, reduce government control of the economy and develop market mechanisms. There can be no assurance these reforms will continue or that they will be effective. Despite recent reform and privatizations, government control over certain sectors or enterprises and significant regulation of investment and industry is still pervasive, including restrictions on investment in companies or industries deemed to be sensitive to particular national interests, and the Chinese government may restrict foreign ownership of Chinese corporations and/or the repatriation of assets by foreign investors. Limitations or restrictions on foreign ownership of securities may have adverse effects on the liquidity and performance of the Fund, and could lead to higher tracking error. Chinese government intervention in the market may have a negative impact on market sentiment, which may in turn affect the performance of the Chinese economy and the Fund’s investments. Chinese markets generally continue to experience inefficiency, volatility and pricing anomalies that may be connected to governmental influence, lack of publicly-available information and/or political and social instability.
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Infectious Illness Risk. From time to time and as recently as January 2020, China has experienced outbreaks of infectious illnesses, and the country may be subject to other public health threats, infectious illnesses, diseases or similar issues in the future. Any spread of an infectious illness, public health threat or similar issue could reduce consumer demand or economic output, result in market closures, travel restrictions or quarantines, and generally have a significant impact on the Chinese economy, which in turn could adversely affect the Fund’s investments.
Economic Risk. The Chinese economy has grown rapidly in the recent past and there is no assurance that this growth rate will be maintained. In fact, the Chinese economy may experience a significant slowdown as a result of, among other things, a deterioration in global demand for Chinese exports, as well as contraction in spending on domestic goods by Chinese consumers. In addition, China may experience substantial rates of inflation or economic recessions, which would have a negative effect on its economy and securities market. Delays in enterprise restructuring, slow development of well-functioning financial markets and widespread corruption have also hindered performance of the Chinese economy. China continues to receive substantial pressure from trading partners to liberalize official currency exchange rates. Reduction in spending on Chinese products and services, institution of additional tariffs or other trade barriers (including as a result of heightened trade tensions between China and the U.S. or in response to actual or alleged Chinese cyber activity) or a downturn in any of the economies of China’s key trading partners may have an adverse impact on the Chinese economy and the Chinese issuers of securities in which the Fund invests. For example, the U.S. has added certain foreign technology companies to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s “Entity List,” which is a list of companies believed to pose a national security risk to the U.S. Actions like these may have unanticipated and disruptive effects on the Chinese economy. Any such response that targets Chinese financial markets or securities exchanges could interfere with orderly trading, delay settlement or cause market disruptions.
Expropriation Risk. The Chinese government maintains a major role in economic policymaking and investing in China involves risk of loss due to expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on foreign investments and on repatriation of capital invested.
Security Risk. China has strained international relations with Taiwan, India, Russia and other neighbors due to territorial disputes, historical animosities, defense concerns and other security concerns. Additionally, China is alleged to have participated in state-sponsored cyberattacks against foreign companies and foreign governments. Actual and threatened responses to such activity, including purchasing restrictions, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Chinese government or Chinese companies, may impact China’s economy and Chinese issuers of securities in which the Fund invests. Relations between China's Han ethnic majority and other ethnic groups in China, including Tibetans and Uighurs, are also strained and have been marked by protests and violence. These situations may cause uncertainty in the Chinese market and may adversely affect the Chinese economy. In addition, conflict on the Korean Peninsula could adversely affect the Chinese economy.
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Chinese Equity Markets. The Fund may invest in H-shares (securities of companies incorporated in the People's Republic of China (“PRC”) that are denominated in Hong Kong dollars and listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong), A-shares (securities of companies incorporated in the PRC that are denominated in renminbi and listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (“SSE”) and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (“SZSE”)) and B-shares (securities of companies incorporated in the PRC that are denominated in U.S. dollars (in the case of the SSE) or Hong Kong dollars (in the case of the SZSE) and listed on the SSE and the SZSE). The Fund may also invest in certain Hong Kong listed securities known as Red-Chips (securities issued by companies incorporated in certain foreign jurisdictions, which are controlled, directly or indirectly, by entities owned by the national government or local governments in the PRC and derive substantial revenues from or allocate substantial assets in the PRC) and P-Chips (securities issued by companies incorporated in certain foreign jurisdictions, which are controlled, directly or indirectly, by individuals in the PRC and derive substantial revenues from or allocate substantial assets in the PRC). The issuance of B-shares and H-shares by Chinese companies and the ability to obtain a “back-door listing” through Red-Chips or P-Chips is still regarded by the Chinese authorities as an experiment in economic reform. “Back-door listing” is a means by which a mainland Chinese company issues Red-Chips or P-Chips to obtain quick access to international listing and international capital. All of these share mechanisms are relatively untested and subject to political and economic policies in China.
Hong Kong Political Risk. Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997 as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC under the principle of “one country, two systems.” Although China is obligated to maintain the current capitalist economic and social system of Hong Kong through June 30, 2047, the continuation of economic and social freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong is dependent on the government of China. Since 1997, there have been tensions between the Chinese government and many people in Hong Kong who perceive China as tightening of control over Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous liberal political, economic, legal, and social framework. Recent protests and unrest have increased tensions even further. Due to the interconnected nature of the Hong Kong and Chinese economies, this instability in Hong Kong may cause uncertainty in the Hong Kong and Chinese markets. In addition, the Hong Kong dollar trades at a fixed exchange rate in relation to (or, is “pegged” to) the U.S. dollar, which has contributed to the growth and stability of the Hong Kong economy. However, it is uncertain how long the currency peg will continue or what effect the establishment of an alternative exchange rate system would have on the Hong Kong economy. Because the Fund's NAV is denominated in U.S. dollars, the establishment of an alternative exchange rate system could result in a decline in the Fund's NAV.
Limited Information and Legal Remedies. Chinese companies, including Chinese companies that are listed on U.S. exchanges, are not subject to the same degree of regulatory requirements, accounting standards or auditor oversight as companies in more developed countries, and as a result, information about the Chinese securities in which the Fund invests may be less reliable or complete. There may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against Chinese companies and shareholders may have limited legal remedies. The Fund is not
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actively managed and does not select investments based on investor protection considerations.
Risk of Investing in Emerging Markets. Investments in emerging market issuers are subject to a greater risk of loss than investments in issuers located or operating in more developed markets. This is due to, among other things, the potential for greater market volatility, lower trading volume, higher levels of inflation, political and economic instability, greater risk of a market shutdown and more governmental limitations on foreign investments in emerging market countries than are typically found in more developed markets. Companies in many emerging markets are not subject to the same degree of regulatory requirements, accounting standards or auditor oversight as companies in more developed countries, and as a result, information about the securities in which the Fund invests may be less reliable or complete. Moreover, emerging markets often have less reliable securities valuations and greater risks associated with custody of securities than developed markets. There may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against companies and shareholders may have limited legal remedies. The Fund is not actively managed and does not select investments based on investor protection considerations. In addition, emerging markets often have greater risk of capital controls through such measures as taxes or interest rate control than developed markets. Certain emerging market countries may also lack the infrastructure necessary to attract large amounts of foreign trade and investment. Local securities markets in emerging market countries may trade a small number of securities and may be unable to respond effectively to changes in trading volume, potentially making prompt liquidation of holdings difficult or impossible at times. Settlement procedures in emerging market countries are frequently less developed and reliable than those in the U.S. (and other developed countries). In addition, significant delays may occur in certain markets in registering the transfer of securities. Settlement or registration problems may make it more difficult for the Fund to value its portfolio securities and could cause the Fund to miss attractive investment opportunities.
Investing in emerging market countries involves a higher risk of loss due to expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on foreign investments and on repatriation of capital invested in certain emerging market countries.
Risk of Investing in Russia. Investing in Russian securities involves significant risks, in addition to those described under “Risk of Investing in Emerging Markets” and “Non-U.S. Securities Risk” that are not typically associated with investing in U.S. securities, including:
The risk of delays in settling portfolio transactions and the risk of loss arising out of the system of share registration and custody used in Russia;
Risks in connection with the maintenance of the Fund’s portfolio securities and cash with foreign sub-custodians and securities depositories, including the risk that appropriate sub-custody arrangements will not be available to the Fund;
The risk that the Fund’s ownership rights in portfolio securities could be lost through
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fraud or negligence because ownership in shares of Russian companies is recorded by the companies themselves and by registrars, rather than by a central registration system;
The risk that the Fund may not be able to pursue claims on behalf of its shareholders because of the system of share registration and custody, and because Russian banking institutions and registrars are not guaranteed by the Russian government; and
The risk that various responses by other nation-states to alleged Russian cyber activity will impact Russia’s economy and Russian issuers of securities in which the Fund invests.
Russia Sanctions. The U.S. and the Economic and Monetary Union of the EU, along with the regulatory bodies of a number of countries including Japan, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and Canada (collectively, “Sanctioning Bodies”), have imposed economic sanctions, which consist of prohibiting certain securities trades, prohibiting certain private transactions in the energy sector, asset freezes and prohibition of all business, with certain Russian individuals and Russian corporate entities. The Sanctioning Bodies could also institute broader sanctions on Russia. These sanctions, or even the threat of further sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Russian securities, a weakening of the ruble or other adverse consequences to the Russian economy. These sanctions could also result in the immediate freeze of Russian securities and/or funds invested in prohibited assets, impairing the ability of the Fund to buy, sell, receive or deliver those securities and/or assets.
The sanctions against certain Russian issuers include prohibitions on transacting in or dealing in issuances of debt or equity of such issuers. Compliance with each of these sanctions may impair the ability of the Fund to buy, sell, hold, receive or deliver the affected securities or other securities of such issuers. If it becomes impracticable or unlawful for the Fund to hold securities subject to, or otherwise affected by, sanctions (collectively, “affected securities”), or if deemed appropriate by BFA, the Fund may prohibit in-kind deposits of the affected securities in connection with creation transactions and instead require a cash deposit, which may also increase the Fund's transaction costs. The Fund may also be legally required to freeze assets in a blocked account.
Also, if an affected security is included in the Fund's Underlying Index, the Fund may, where practicable, seek to eliminate its holdings of the affected security by employing or augmenting its representative sampling strategy to seek to track the investment results of its Underlying Index. The use of (or increased use of) a representative sampling strategy may increase the Fund’s tracking error risk. If the affected securities constitute a significant percentage of the Underlying Index, the Fund may not be able to effectively implement a representative sampling strategy, which may result in significant tracking error between the Fund’s performance and the performance of its Underlying Index.
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Current or future sanctions may result in Russia taking counter measures or retaliatory actions, which may further impair the value and liquidity of Russian securities. These retaliatory measures may include the immediate freeze of Russian assets held by the Fund. In the event of such a freeze of any Fund assets, including depositary receipts, the Fund may need to liquidate non-restricted assets in order to satisfy any Fund redemption orders. The liquidation of Fund assets during this time may also result in the Fund receiving substantially lower prices for its securities.
These sanctions may also lead to changes in the Fund’s Underlying Index. The Fund’s Index Provider may remove securities from the Underlying Index or implement caps on the securities of certain issuers that have been subject to recent economic sanctions. In such an event, it is expected that the Fund will rebalance its portfolio to bring it in line with the Underlying Index as a result of any such changes, which may result in transaction costs and increased tracking error. These sanctions, the volatility that may result in the trading markets for Russian securities and the possibility that Russia may impose investment or currency controls on investors may cause the Fund to invest in, or increase the Fund’s investments in, depositary receipts that represent the securities of the Underlying Index. These investments may result in increased transaction costs and increased tracking error.
Risk of Investing in Saudi Arabia. The ability of foreign investors (such as the Fund) to invest in Saudi Arabian issuers is new and untested. Such ability could be restricted or revoked by the Saudi Arabian government at any time, and unforeseen risks could materialize due to foreign ownership in such securities. In addition, the CMA places investment limitations on the ownership of Saudi Arabian issuers by foreign investors, including a limitation on the Fund’s ownership of any single issuer listed on the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange, which may prevent the Fund from investing in accordance with its strategy and contribute to tracking error against the Underlying Index. Saudi Arabia is highly reliant on income from the sale of petroleum and trade with other countries involved in the sale of petroleum, and its economy is therefore vulnerable to changes in foreign currency values and the market for petroleum. As global demand for petroleum fluctuates, Saudi Arabia may be significantly impacted. Like most Middle Eastern governments, the government of Saudi Arabia exercises substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. Although liberalization in the wider economy is underway, in many areas it has lagged significantly: restrictions on foreign ownership persists, and the government has an ownership stake in many key industries. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia has historically experienced strained relations with economic partners worldwide, including other countries in the Middle East due to geopolitical events. Governmental actions in the future could have a significant effect on economic conditions in Saudi Arabia, which could affect private sector companies and the Fund, as well as the value of securities in the Fund’s portfolio. Any economic sanctions on Saudi Arabian individuals or Saudi Arabian corporate entities, or even the threat of sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Saudi Arabian securities, a weakening of the Saudi riyal or other adverse consequences to the Saudi Arabian economy. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s economy relies heavily on cheap, foreign labor, and changes in the availability of this labor supply could have an adverse effect on the economy.
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Investments in securities of Saudi Arabian issuers involves risks not typically associated with investments in securities of issuers in more developed countries that may negatively affect the value of the Fund’s investments. Such heightened risks may include, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, restrictions on and government intervention in international trade, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision making, armed conflict, crime and instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socioeconomic unrest. Although the political situation in Saudi Arabia is largely stable, Saudi Arabia has historically experienced political instability, and there remains the possibility that instability in the larger Middle East region could adversely impact the economy of Saudi Arabia. Political instability in the larger Middle East region has caused significant disruptions to many industries. Continued political and social unrest in these areas may negatively affect the value of securities in the Fund’s portfolio.
Saudi Arabia Broker Risk. There are a number of different ways of conducting transactions in equity securities in the Saudi Arabian market. The Fund generally expects to conduct its transactions in a manner in which the Fund would not be limited by Saudi Arabian regulations to a single broker. However, there may be a limited number of brokers who can provide services to the Fund, which may have an adverse impact on the prices, quantity or timing of Fund transactions. The limited number of brokers may impact the Fund’s ability to achieve best execution on securities transactions. In addition, the limited number of brokers available to the Fund may make the Fund more susceptible to credit loss or trading disruptions in the event of a default or business disruption by one or more of the available brokers. Should the Fund’s ability to use one or more brokers be affected for any reason, this could disrupt the operations of the Fund and affect the ability of the Fund to track the Underlying Index and/or cause the Fund’s shares to trade at a premium or discount to NAV. The Fund may also incur losses due to the acts or omissions of its brokers in the execution or settlement of any transaction or in the transfer of any funds or securities.
Securities Lending Risk. The Fund may engage in securities lending. Securities lending involves the risk that the Fund may lose money because the borrower of the loaned securities fails to return the securities in a timely manner or at all. The Fund could also lose money in the event of a decline in the value of collateral provided for loaned securities or a decline in the value of any investments made with cash collateral. These events could also trigger adverse tax consequences for the Fund. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company, N.A. (“BTC”), the Fund's securities lending agent, will take into account the tax impact to shareholders of substitute payments for dividends when managing the Fund's securities lending program.
Security Risk. Some geographic areas in which the Fund invests have experienced acts of terrorism and strained international relations due to territorial disputes, historical animosities, defense concerns and other security concerns. These situations may cause uncertainty in the markets of these geographic areas and may adversely affect their economies.
Small Fund Risk. When the Fund’s size is small, the Fund may experience low trading volume and wide bid/ask spreads. In addition, the Fund may face the risk of being delisted if the Fund does not meet certain conditions of the listing exchange. If the
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Fund were to be required to delist from the listing exchange, the value of the Fund may rapidly decline and performance may be negatively impacted. Any resulting liquidation of the Fund could cause the Fund to incur elevated transaction costs for the Fund and negative tax consequences for its shareholders.
Structural Risk. Certain political, economic, legal and currency risks could contribute to a high degree of price volatility in the equity markets of some of the countries in which the Fund may invest and could adversely affect investments in the Fund.
Political and Social Risk. Disparities of wealth, the pace and success of democratization and ethnic, religious and racial disaffection, among other factors, may exacerbate social unrest, violence and labor unrest in some of the countries in which the Fund may invest. Unanticipated or sudden political or social developments may result in sudden and significant investment losses.
Economic Risk. Some countries in which the Fund may invest may experience economic instability, including instability resulting from substantial rates of inflation or significant devaluations of their currency, or economic recessions, which would have a negative effect on the economies and securities markets of their economies. Some of these countries may also impose restrictions on the exchange or export of currency or adverse currency exchange rates and may be characterized by a lack of available currency hedging instruments.
Expropriation Risk. Investments in certain countries in which the Fund may invest may be subject to loss due to expropriation or nationalization of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on foreign investments and repatriation of capital.
Large Government Debt Risk. Chronic structural public sector deficits in some countries in which the Fund may invest may adversely impact securities held by the Fund.
Tracking Error Risk. The Fund may be subject to tracking error, which is the divergence of the Fund’s performance from that of the Underlying Index. Tracking error may occur because of differences between the securities and other instruments held in the Fund’s portfolio and those included in the Underlying Index, pricing differences (including, as applicable, differences between a security’s price at the local market close and the Fund's valuation of a security at the time of calculation of the Fund's NAV), transaction costs incurred by the Fund, the Fund’s holding of uninvested cash, differences in timing of the accrual of or the valuation of dividends or interest, the requirements to maintain pass-through tax treatment, portfolio transactions carried out to minimize the distribution of capital gains to shareholders, changes to the Underlying Index or the costs to the Fund of complying with various new or existing regulatory requirements. This risk may be heightened during times of increased market volatility or other unusual market conditions. Tracking error also may result because the Fund incurs fees and expenses, while the Underlying Index does not. INDEX ETFs THAT TRACK INDICES WITH SIGNIFICANT WEIGHT IN EMERGING MARKETS ISSUERS MAY EXPERIENCE HIGHER TRACKING ERROR THAN OTHER INDEX ETFs THAT DO NOT TRACK SUCH INDICES.
U.S. Economic Risk. The U.S. is a significant, and in some cases the most significant, trading partner of, or foreign investor in, certain country or countries in which the Fund
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invests. As a result, economic conditions of such countries may be particularly affected by changes in the U.S. economy. A decrease in U.S. imports or exports, new trade and financial regulations or tariffs, changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate or an economic slowdown in the U.S. may have a material adverse effect on the economic conditions of such countries and, as a result, securities to which the Fund has exposure.
Valuation Risk. The price the Fund could receive upon the sale of a security or other asset may differ from the Fund's valuation of the security or other asset and from the value used by the Underlying Index, particularly for securities or other assets that trade in low volume or volatile markets or that are valued using a fair value methodology as a result of trade suspensions or for other reasons. Because non-U.S. exchanges may be open on days when the Fund does not price its shares, the value of the securities or other assets in the Fund’s portfolio may change on days or during time periods when shareholders will not be able to purchase or sell the Fund’s shares. In addition, for purposes of calculating the Fund's NAV, the value of assets denominated in non-U.S. currencies is converted into U.S. dollars using prevailing market rates on the date of valuation as quoted by one or more data service providers. This conversion may result in a difference between the prices used to calculate the Fund's NAV and the prices used by the Underlying Index, which, in turn, could result in a difference between the Fund's performance and the performance of the Underlying Index. Authorized Participants who purchase or redeem Fund shares on days when the Fund is holding fair-valued securities may receive fewer or more shares, or lower or higher redemption proceeds, than they would have received had the Fund not fair-valued securities or used a different valuation methodology. The Fund’s ability to value investments may be impacted by technological issues or errors by pricing services or other third-party service providers.
A Further Discussion of Other Risks
The Fund may also be subject to certain other risks associated with its investments and investment strategies. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
African Economic Risk. Investing in the economies of African countries involves risks not typically associated with investments in securities of issuers in more developed economies, countries or geographic regions that may negatively affect the value of investments in the Fund. Such heightened risks include, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, restrictions on and government intervention in international trade, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision making, armed conflict, civil war, and social instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socioeconomic unrest or widespread outbreaks of disease.
The securities markets in Africa are underdeveloped and are often considered to be less correlated to global economic cycles than markets located in more developed economies, countries or geographic regions. Securities markets in African countries are subject to greater risks associated with market volatility, lower market capitalization, lower trading volume, illiquidity, inflation, greater price fluctuations,
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uncertainty regarding the existence of trading markets, governmental control and heavy regulation of labor and industry. Moreover, trading on African securities markets may be suspended altogether.
Certain governments in African countries may restrict or control to varying degrees the ability of foreign investors to invest in securities of issuers located or operating in those countries. Moreover, certain countries in Africa may require governmental approval or special licenses prior to investment by foreign investors; may limit the amount of investment by foreign investors in a particular industry and/or issuer; may limit such foreign investment to a certain class of securities of an issuer that may have less advantageous rights than the classes available for purchase by domestic investors of those countries; and/or may impose additional taxes on foreign investors. These factors, among others, make investing in issuers located or operating in countries in Africa significantly riskier than investing in issuers located or operating in more developed countries.
Borrowing Risk. Borrowing may exaggerate changes in the net asset value of Fund shares and in the return on the Fund’s portfolio. Borrowing will cost the Fund interest expense and other fees. The costs of borrowing may reduce the Fund’s return. Borrowing may also cause the Fund to liquidate positions when it may not be advantageous to do so to satisfy its obligations.
Central and South American Economic Risk. Certain Central and South American countries have experienced high interest rates, economic volatility, high levels of inflation, currency devaluations, government defaults and high unemployment rates. Additionally, commodities such as oil and gas, minerals and metals represent a significant percentage of the region’s exports, and the economies of countries in the region are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in commodity prices as a result. The impact of any of the foregoing events in one country could have a significant effect on the entire region.
Close-Out Risk for Qualified Financial Contracts. Regulations adopted by global prudential regulators that are now in effect require counterparties that are part of U.S. or foreign global systemically important banking organizations to include contractual restrictions on close-out and cross-default in agreements relating to qualified financial contracts. Qualified financial contracts include agreements relating to swaps, currency forwards and other derivatives as well as repurchase agreements and securities lending agreements. The restrictions prevent the Fund from closing out a qualified financial contract during a specified time period if the counterparty is subject to resolution proceedings and also prohibit the Fund from exercising default rights due to a receivership or similar proceeding of an affiliate of the counterparty. These requirements may increase credit risk and other risks to the Fund.
Communication Services Sector Risk. The communication services sector consists of both companies in the telecommunication services industry as well as those in the media and entertainment industry. Examples of companies in the telecommunication services industry group include providers of fiber-optic, fixed-line, cellular and wireless telecommunications networks. Companies in the media and entertainment industry group encompass a variety of services and products including television broadcasting, gaming products, social media, networking platforms, online classifieds, online review
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websites, and Internet search engines. Companies in the communication services sector may be affected by industry competition, substantial capital requirements, government regulation, and obsolescence of communications products and services due to technological advancement. Fluctuating domestic and international demand, shifting demographics and often unpredictable changes in consumer tastes can drastically affect a communication services company's profitability. In addition, while all companies may be susceptible to network security breaches, certain companies in the communication services sector may be particular targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or consumer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses.
The communication services sector of a country’s economy is often subject to extensive government regulation. The costs of complying with governmental regulations, delays or failure to receive required regulatory approvals, or the enactment of new regulatory requirements may negatively affect the business of communications companies. Government actions around the world, specifically in the area of pre-marketing clearance of products and prices, can be arbitrary and unpredictable. The communications services industry can also be significantly affected by intense competition for market share, including competition with alternative technologies such as wireless communications, product compatibility and standardization, consumer preferences, rapid product obsolescence, research and development of new products, lack of standardization or compatibility with existing technologies, and a dependency on patent and copyright protections. Companies in the communication services sector may encounter distressed cash flows due to the need to commit substantial capital to meet increasing competition, particularly in developing new products and services using new technology. Technological innovations may make the products and services of certain communications companies obsolete.
Telecommunications providers with exposure to the U.S. are generally required to obtain franchises or licenses in order to provide services in a given location. Licensing and franchise rights in the telecommunications sector are limited, which may provide an advantage to certain participants. Limited availability of such rights, high barriers to market entry and regulatory oversight, among other factors, have led to consolidation of companies within the sector, which could lead to further regulation or other negative effects in the future. Telecommunication providers investing in non-U.S. countries may be subject to similar risks. Additional risks include those related to competitive challenges in the U.S. from non-U.S. competitors engaged in strategic joint ventures with U.S. companies and in non-U.S. markets from both U.S. and non-U.S. competitors.
Companies in the media and entertainment industries can be significantly affected by several factors, including competition, particularly in formulation of products and services using new technologies, cyclicality of revenues and earnings, a potential decrease in the discretionary income of targeted individuals, changing consumer tastes and interests, and the potential increase in government regulation. Companies in the media and entertainment industries may become obsolete quickly. Advertising spending can be an important revenue source for media and entertainment companies.
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During economic downturns advertising spending typically decreases and, as a result, media and entertainment companies tend to generate less revenue.
Consumer Staples Sector Risk. Companies in the consumer staples sector may be affected by the regulation of various product components and production methods, marketing campaigns and changes in the global economy, consumer spending and consumer demand. Companies in the consumer staples sector may also be adversely affected by changes or trends in commodity prices, which may be influenced by unpredictable factors. These companies may be subject to severe competition, which may have an adverse impact on their profitability.
Dividend Risk. There is no guarantee that issuers of the stocks held by the Fund will declare dividends in the future or that, if declared, they will be paid, or that they will either remain at current levels or increase over time.
Illiquid Investments Risk. The Fund may invest up to an aggregate amount of 15% of its net assets in illiquid investments. An illiquid investment is any investment that the Fund reasonably expects cannot be sold or disposed of in current market conditions in seven calendar days or less without significantly changing the market value of the investment. To the extent the Fund holds illiquid investments, the illiquid investments may reduce the returns of the Fund because the Fund may be unable to transact at advantageous times or prices. An investment may be illiquid due to, among other things, the reduced number and capacity of traditional market participants to make a market in securities or instruments or the lack of an active market for such securities or instruments. To the extent that the Fund invests in securities or instruments with substantial market and/or credit risk, the Fund will tend to have increased exposure to the risks associated with illiquid investments. Liquid investments may become illiquid after purchase by the Fund, particularly during periods of market turmoil. There can be no assurance that a security or instrument that is deemed to be liquid when purchased will continue to be liquid for as long as it is held by the Fund, and any security or instrument held by the Fund may be deemed an illiquid investment pursuant to the Fund’s liquidity risk management program. Illiquid investments may be harder to value, especially in changing markets. If the Fund is forced to sell underlying investments at reduced prices or under unfavorable conditions to meet redemption requests or for other cash needs, the Fund may suffer a loss. This may be magnified in a rising interest rate environment or other circumstances where redemptions from the Fund may be greater than normal. Other market participants may be attempting to liquidate holdings at the same time as the Fund, causing increased supply of the Fund’s underlying investments in the market and contributing to illiquid investments risk and downward pricing pressure. During periods of market volatility, liquidity in the market for the Fund’s shares may be impacted by the liquidity in the market for the underlying securities or instruments held by the Fund, which could lead to the Fund’s shares trading at a premium or discount to the Fund’s NAV.
Threshold/Underinvestment Risk. If certain aggregate and/or fund-level ownership thresholds are reached through transactions undertaken by BFA, its affiliates or the Fund, or as a result of third-party transactions or actions by an issuer or regulator, the ability of BFA and its affiliates on behalf of clients (including the Fund) to purchase or dispose of investments, or exercise rights or undertake business transactions, may be
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restricted by regulation or otherwise impaired. The capacity of the Fund to make investments in certain securities may be affected by the relevant threshold limits, and such limitations may have adverse effects on the liquidity and performance of the Fund’s portfolio holdings compared to the performance of the Underlying Index. This may increase the risk of the Fund being underinvested to the Underlying Index and increase the risk of tracking error.
For example, in certain circumstances where the Fund invests in securities issued by companies that operate in certain regulated industries or in certain emerging or international markets, is subject to corporate or regulatory ownership restrictions, or invests in certain futures or other derivative transactions, there may be limits on the aggregate and/or fund-level amount invested or voted by BFA and its affiliates for their proprietary accounts and for client accounts (including the Fund) that may not be exceeded without the grant of a license or other regulatory or corporate consent or, if exceeded, may cause BFA and its affiliates, the Fund or other client accounts to suffer disadvantages or business restrictions.
Portfolio Holdings Information
A description of the Trust's policies and procedures with respect to the disclosure of the Fund’s portfolio securities is available in the Fund's Statement of Additional Information (“SAI”). The top holdings of the Fund can be found at www.iShares.com. Fund fact sheets provide information regarding the Fund's top holdings and may be requested by calling 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737).
Management
Investment Adviser. As investment adviser, BFA has overall responsibility for the general management and administration of the Fund. BFA provides an investment program for the Fund and manages the investment of the Fund’s assets. In managing the Fund, BFA may draw upon the research and expertise of its asset management affiliates with respect to certain portfolio securities. In seeking to achieve the Fund's investment objective, BFA uses teams of portfolio managers, investment strategists and other investment specialists. This team approach brings together many disciplines and leverages BFA’s extensive resources.
Pursuant to the Investment Advisory Agreement between BFA and the Trust (entered into on behalf of the Fund), BFA is responsible for substantially all expenses of the Fund, except the management fees, interest expenses, taxes, expenses incurred with respect to the acquisition and disposition of portfolio securities and the execution of portfolio transactions, including brokerage commissions, distribution fees or expenses, litigation expenses and any extraordinary expenses (as determined by a majority of the Trustees who are not “interested persons” of the Trust).
For its investment advisory services to the Fund, BFA will be paid a management fee from the Fund based on a percentage of the Fund’s average daily net assets, at the annual rate of 0.16%. BFA may from time to time voluntarily waive and/or reimburse fees or expenses in order to limit total annual fund operating expenses (excluding acquired fund fees and expenses, if any). Any such voluntary waiver or reimbursement may be eliminated by BFA at any time.
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BFA is located at 400 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. It is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of BlackRock, Inc. (“BlackRock”). As of March 31, 2020, BFA and its affiliates provided investment advisory services for assets in excess of $6.47 trillion. BFA and its affiliates trade and invest for their own accounts in the actual securities and types of securities in which the Fund may also invest, which may affect the price of such securities.
A discussion regarding the basis for the approval by the Trust's Board of Trustees (the “Board”) of the Investment Advisory Agreement with BFA will be available in the Fund's Annual Report for the period ending August 31, 2020.
Portfolio Managers. Rachel Aguirre, Jennifer Hsui, Alan Mason, Greg Savage and Amy Whitelaw are primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of the Fund. Each Portfolio Manager is responsible for various functions related to portfolio management, including, but not limited to, investing cash inflows, coordinating with members of his or her portfolio management team to focus on certain asset classes, implementing investment strategy, researching and reviewing investment strategy and overseeing members of his or her portfolio management team that have more limited responsibilities.
Rachel Aguirre has been with BlackRock since 2006, including her years with Barclays Global Investors (“BGI”), which merged with BlackRock in 2009. Ms. Aguirre has been employed by BFA or its affiliates as a portfolio manager since 2006 and has been a Portfolio Manager of the Fund since inception (2020).
Jennifer Hsui has been employed by BFA or its affiliates as a senior portfolio manager since 2007. Prior to that, Ms. Hsui was a portfolio manager from 2006 to 2007 for Barclays Global Fund Advisors (“BGFA”). Ms. Hsui has been a Portfolio Manager of the Fund since inception (2020).
Alan Mason has been employed by BFA or its affiliates as a portfolio manager since 1991. Mr. Mason has been a Portfolio Manager of the Fund since inception (2020).
Greg Savage has been employed by BFA or its affiliates as a senior portfolio manager since 2006. Prior to that, Mr. Savage was a portfolio manager from 2001 to 2006 for BGFA. Mr. Savage has been a Portfolio Manager of the Fund since inception (2020).
Amy Whitelaw has been with BlackRock since 1999, including her years with BGI, which merged with BlackRock in 2009. Ms. Whitelaw has been employed by BFA or its affiliates as a portfolio manager since 2009 and has been a Portfolio Manager of the Fund since inception (2020).
The Fund's SAI provides additional information about the Portfolio Managers' compensation, other accounts managed by the Portfolio Managers and the Portfolio Managers' ownership (if any) of shares in the Fund.
Administrator, Custodian and Transfer Agent. State Street Bank and Trust Company (“State Street”) is the administrator, custodian and transfer agent for the Fund.
Conflicts of Interest. The investment activities of BFA and its affiliates (including BlackRock and its subsidiaries (collectively, the “Affiliates”)), , and their respective directors, officers or employees, in the management of, or their interest in, their own
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accounts and other accounts they manage, may present conflicts of interest that could disadvantage the Fund and its shareholders. BFA and its Affiliates provide investment management services to other funds and discretionary managed accounts that may follow investment programs similar to that of the Fund. BFA and its Affiliates are involved worldwide with a broad spectrum of financial services and asset management activities and may engage in the ordinary course of business in activities in which their interests or the interests of their clients may conflict with those of the Fund. BFA or one or more Affiliates act, or may act, as an investor, research provider, investment manager, commodity pool operator, commodity trading advisor, financier, underwriter, adviser, trader, lender, index provider, agent and/or principal, and have other direct and indirect interests in securities, currencies, commodities, derivatives and other instruments in which the Fund may directly or indirectly invest. The Fund may invest in securities of, or engage in other transactions with, companies with which an Affiliate has significant debt or equity investments or other interests. The Fund may also invest in issuances (such as structured notes) by entities for which an Affiliate provides and is compensated for cash management services relating to the proceeds from the sale of such issuances. The Fund also may invest in securities of, or engage in other transactions with, companies for which an Affiliate provides or may in the future provide research coverage. An Affiliate may have business relationships with, and purchase or distribute or sell services or products from or to, distributors, consultants or others who recommend the Fund or who engage in transactions with or for the Fund, and may receive compensation for such services. BFA or one or more Affiliates may engage in proprietary trading and advise accounts and funds that have investment objectives similar to those of the Fund and/or that engage in and compete for transactions in the same types of securities, currencies and other instruments as the Fund. This may include transactions in securities issued by other open-end and closed-end investment companies (which may include investment companies that are affiliated with the Fund and BFA, to the extent permitted under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “1940 Act”)). The trading activities of BFA and these Affiliates are carried out without reference to positions held directly or indirectly by the Fund and may result in BFA or an Affiliate having positions in certain securities that are senior or junior to, or have interests different from or adverse to, the securities that are owned by the Fund.
Neither BlackRock nor any Affiliate is under any obligation to share any investment opportunity, idea or strategy with the Fund. As a result, an Affiliate may compete with the Fund for appropriate investment opportunities. The results of the Fund's investment activities, therefore, may differ from those of an Affiliate and of other accounts managed by BlackRock or an Affiliate, and it is possible that the Fund could sustain losses during periods in which one or more Affiliates and other accounts achieve profits on their trading for proprietary or other accounts. The opposite result is also possible.
In addition, the Fund may, from time to time, enter into transactions in which BFA or an Affiliate or its or their directors, officers or employees or other clients have an adverse interest. Furthermore, transactions undertaken by clients advised or managed by BFA or its Affiliates may adversely impact the Fund. Transactions by one or more clients
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or by BFA or its Affiliates or their directors, officers or employees, may have the effect of diluting or otherwise disadvantaging the values, prices or investment strategies of the Fund.
The Fund's activities may be limited because of regulatory restrictions applicable to BFA or one or more Affiliates and/or their internal policies designed to comply with such restrictions.
Under a securities lending program approved by the Board, the Fund has retained BTC, an Affiliate of BFA, to serve as the securities lending agent for the Fund to the extent that the Fund participates in the securities lending program. For these services, the securities lending agent will receive a fee from the Fund, including a fee based on the returns earned on the Fund’s investment of the cash received as collateral for the loaned securities. In addition, one or more Affiliates may be among the entities to which the Fund may lend its portfolio securities under the securities lending program.
The activities of BFA and its Affiliates and their respective directors, officers or employees, may give rise to other conflicts of interest that could disadvantage the Fund and its shareholders. BFA has adopted policies and procedures designed to address these potential conflicts of interest. See the SAI for further information.
Shareholder Information
Additional shareholder information, including how to buy and sell shares of the Fund, is available free of charge by calling toll-free: 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737) or visiting our website at www.iShares.com.
Buying and Selling Shares. Shares of the Fund may be acquired or redeemed directly from the Fund only in Creation Units or multiples thereof, as discussed in the Creations and Redemptions section of this Prospectus. Only an Authorized Participant may engage in creation or redemption transactions directly with the Fund. Once created, shares of the Fund generally trade in the secondary market in amounts less than a Creation Unit.
Shares of the Fund are listed on a national securities exchange for trading during the trading day. Shares can be bought and sold throughout the trading day like shares of other publicly-traded companies. The Trust does not impose any minimum investment for shares of the Fund purchased on an exchange or otherwise in the secondary market. The Fund's shares trade under the ticker symbol “EMXF.”
Buying or selling Fund shares on an exchange or other secondary market involves two types of costs that may apply to all securities transactions. When buying or selling shares of the Fund through a broker, you may incur a brokerage commission and other charges. The commission is frequently a fixed amount and may be a significant proportional cost for investors seeking to buy or sell small amounts of shares. In addition, you may incur the cost of the “spread,” that is, any difference between the bid price and the ask price. The spread varies over time for shares of the Fund based on the Fund’s trading volume and market liquidity, and is generally lower if the Fund has high trading volume and market liquidity, and higher if the Fund has little trading volume and market liquidity (which is often the case for funds that are newly launched or small in size). The Fund's spread may also be impacted by the liquidity or illiquidity
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of the underlying securities held by the Fund, particularly for newly launched or smaller funds or in instances of significant volatility of the underlying securities.
The Board has adopted a policy of not monitoring for frequent purchases and redemptions of Fund shares (“frequent trading”) that appear to attempt to take advantage of a potential arbitrage opportunity presented by a lag between a change in the value of the Fund’s portfolio securities after the close of the primary markets for the Fund’s portfolio securities and the reflection of that change in the Fund’s NAV (“market timing”), because the Fund sells and redeems its shares directly through transactions that are in-kind and/or for cash, subject to the conditions described below under Creations and Redemptions. The Board has not adopted a policy of monitoring for other frequent trading activity because shares of the Fund are listed for trading on a national securities exchange.
The national securities exchange on which the Fund's shares are listed is open for trading Monday through Friday and is closed on weekends and the following holidays (or the days on which they are observed): New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The Fund’s primary listing exchange is NASDAQ.
Section 12(d)(1) of the 1940 Act restricts investments by investment companies, including foreign investment companies, in the securities of other investment companies. Registered investment companies are permitted to invest in the Fund beyond the limits set forth in Section 12(d)(1), subject to certain terms and conditions set forth in SEC rules or in an SEC exemptive order issued to the Trust. In order for a registered investment company to invest in shares of the Fund beyond the limitations of Section 12(d)(1) pursuant to the exemptive relief obtained by the Trust, the registered investment company must enter into an agreement with the Trust. Foreign investment companies are permitted to invest in the Fund only up to the limits set forth in Section 12(d)(1), subject to any applicable SEC no-action relief.
Book Entry. Shares of the Fund are held in book-entry form, which means that no stock certificates are issued. The Depository Trust Company (“DTC”) or its nominee is the record owner of, and holds legal title to, all outstanding shares of the Fund.
Investors owning shares of the Fund are beneficial owners as shown on the records of DTC or its participants. DTC serves as the securities depository for shares of the Fund. DTC participants include securities brokers and dealers, banks, trust companies, clearing corporations and other institutions that directly or indirectly maintain a custodial relationship with DTC. As a beneficial owner of shares, you are not entitled to receive physical delivery of stock certificates or to have shares registered in your name, and you are not considered a registered owner of shares. Therefore, to exercise any right as an owner of shares, you must rely upon the procedures of DTC and its participants. These procedures are the same as those that apply to any other securities that you hold in book-entry or “street name” form.
Share Prices. The trading prices of the Fund’s shares in the secondary market generally differ from the Fund’s daily NAV and are affected by market forces such as the supply of and demand for ETF shares and shares of underlying securities held by the Fund, economic conditions and other factors. Information regarding the intraday
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value of shares of the Fund, also known as the “indicative optimized portfolio value” (“IOPV”), is disseminated every 15 seconds throughout each trading day by the national securities exchange on which the Fund's shares are listed or by market data vendors or other information providers. The IOPV is based on the current market value of the securities or other assets and/or cash required to be deposited in exchange for a Creation Unit. The IOPV does not necessarily reflect the precise composition of the current portfolio of securities or other assets held by the Fund at a particular point in time or the best possible valuation of the current portfolio. Therefore, the IOPV should not be viewed as a “real-time” update of the Fund's NAV, which is computed only once a day. The IOPV is generally determined by using both current market quotations and price quotations obtained from broker-dealers and other market intermediaries that may trade in the portfolio securities or other assets held by the Fund. The quotations of certain Fund holdings may not be updated during U.S. trading hours if such holdings do not trade in the U.S. The Fund is not involved in, or responsible for, the calculation or dissemination of the IOPV and makes no representation or warranty as to its accuracy.
Determination of Net Asset Value. The NAV of the Fund normally is determined once daily Monday through Friday, generally as of the regularly scheduled close of business of the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) (normally 4:00 p.m., Eastern time) on each day that the NYSE is open for trading, based on prices at the time of closing, provided that (i) any Fund assets or liabilities denominated in currencies other than the U.S. dollar are translated into U.S. dollars at the prevailing market rates on the date of valuation as quoted by one or more data service providers (as detailed below) and (ii) U.S. fixed-income assets may be valued as of the announced closing time for trading in fixed-income instruments in a particular market or exchange. The NAV of the Fund is calculated by dividing the value of the net assets of the Fund (i.e., the value of its total assets less total liabilities) by the total number of outstanding shares of the Fund, generally rounded to the nearest cent.
The value of the securities and other assets and liabilities held by the Fund are determined pursuant to valuation policies and procedures approved by the Board.
Equity investments and other instruments for which market quotations are readily available, as well as investments in an underlying fund, if any, are valued at market value, which is generally determined using the last reported official closing price or, if a reported closing price is not available, the last traded price on the exchange or market on which the security is primarily traded at the time of valuation.
The Fund invests in non-U.S. securities. Foreign currency exchange rates with respect to the portfolio securities denominated in non-U.S. currencies are generally determined as of 4:00 p.m., London time. Non-U.S. securities held by the Fund may trade on weekends or other days when the Fund does not price its shares. As a result, the Fund’s NAV may change on days when Authorized Participants will not be able to purchase or redeem Fund shares.
Generally, trading in non-U.S. securities, U.S. government securities, money market instruments and certain fixed-income securities is substantially completed each day at various times prior to the close of business on the NYSE. The values of such securities used in computing the NAV of the Fund are determined as of such times.
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When market quotations are not readily available or are believed by BFA to be unreliable, the Fund’s investments are valued at fair value. Fair value determinations are made by BFA in accordance with policies and procedures approved by the Board. BFA may conclude that a market quotation is not readily available or is unreliable if a security or other asset or liability does not have a price source due to its lack of trading or other reasons, if a market quotation differs significantly from recent price quotations or otherwise no longer appears to reflect fair value, where the security or other asset or liability is thinly traded, when there is a significant event subsequent to the most recent market quotation, or if the trading market on which a security is listed is suspended or closed and no appropriate alternative trading market is available. A “significant event” is deemed to occur if BFA determines, in its reasonable business judgment prior to or at the time of pricing the Fund’s assets or liabilities, that the event is likely to cause a material change to the closing market price of one or more assets or liabilities held by the Fund. Non-U.S. securities whose values are affected by volatility that occurs in the local markets or in related or highly correlated assets (e.g., American Depositary Receipts, Global Depositary Receipts or substantially identical ETFs) on a trading day after the close of non-U.S. securities markets may be fair valued.
Fair value represents a good faith approximation of the value of an asset or liability. The fair value of an asset or liability held by the Fund is the amount the Fund might reasonably expect to receive from the current sale of that asset or the cost to extinguish that liability in an arm’s-length transaction. Valuing the Fund’s investments using fair value pricing will result in prices that may differ from current market valuations and that may not be the prices at which those investments could have been sold during the period in which the particular fair values were used. Use of fair value prices and certain current market valuations could result in a difference between the prices used to calculate the Fund’s NAV and the prices used by the Underlying Index, which, in turn, could result in a difference between the Fund’s performance and the performance of the Underlying Index.
The value of assets or liabilities denominated in non-U.S. currencies will be converted into U.S. dollars using prevailing market rates on the date of valuation as quoted by one or more data service providers. Use of a rate different from the rate used by the Index Provider may adversely affect the Fund’s ability to track the Underlying Index.
Dividends and Distributions
General Policies. Dividends from net investment income, if any, generally are declared and paid at least once a year by the Fund. Distributions of net realized securities gains, if any, generally are declared and paid once a year, but the Trust may make distributions on a more frequent basis for the Fund. The Trust reserves the right to declare special distributions if, in its reasonable discretion, such action is necessary or advisable to preserve its status as a regulated investment company (“RIC”) or to avoid imposition of income or excise taxes on undistributed income or realized gains.
Dividends and other distributions on shares of the Fund are distributed on a pro rata basis to beneficial owners of such shares. Dividend payments are made through DTC participants and indirect participants to beneficial owners then of record with proceeds received from the Fund.
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Dividend Reinvestment Service. No dividend reinvestment service is provided by the Trust. Broker-dealers may make available the DTC book-entry Dividend Reinvestment Service for use by beneficial owners of the Fund for reinvestment of their dividend distributions. Beneficial owners should contact their broker to determine the availability and costs of the service and the details of participation therein. Brokers may require beneficial owners to adhere to specific procedures and timetables. If this service is available and used, dividend distributions of both income and realized gains will be automatically reinvested in additional whole shares of the Fund purchased in the secondary market.
Taxes. As with any investment, you should consider how your investment in shares of the Fund will be taxed. The tax information in this Prospectus is provided as general information, based on current law. You should consult your own tax professional about the tax consequences of an investment in shares of the Fund.
Unless your investment in Fund shares is made through a tax-exempt entity or tax-deferred retirement account, such as an IRA, in which case your distributions generally will be taxable when withdrawn, you need to be aware of the possible tax consequences when the Fund makes distributions or you sell Fund shares.
Taxes on Distributions. Distributions from the Fund’s net investment income (other than qualified dividend income), including distributions of income from securities lending and distributions out of the Fund’s net short-term capital gains, if any, are taxable to you as ordinary income. Distributions by the Fund of net long-term capital gains, if any, in excess of net short-term capital losses (capital gain dividends) are taxable to you as long-term capital gains, regardless of how long you have held the Fund’s shares. Distributions by the Fund that qualify as qualified dividend income are taxable to you at long-term capital gain rates. Long-term capital gains and qualified dividend income are generally eligible for taxation at a maximum rate of 15% or 20% for non-corporate shareholders, depending on whether their income exceeds certain threshold amounts. In addition, a 3.8% U.S. federal Medicare contribution tax is imposed on “net investment income,” including, but not limited to, interest, dividends, and net gain, of U.S. individuals with income exceeding $200,000 (or $250,000 if married and filing jointly) and of estates and trusts.
Dividends will be qualified dividend income to you if they are attributable to qualified dividend income received by the Fund. Generally, qualified dividend income includes dividend income from taxable U.S. corporations and qualified non-U.S. corporations, provided that the Fund satisfies certain holding period requirements in respect of the stock of such corporations and has not hedged its position in the stock in certain ways. Substitute dividends received by the Fund with respect to dividends paid on securities lent out will not be qualified dividend income. For this purpose, a qualified non-U.S. corporation means any non-U.S. corporation that is eligible for benefits under a comprehensive income tax treaty with the U.S., which includes an exchange of information program, or if the stock with respect to which the dividend was paid is readily tradable on an established U.S. securities market. The term excludes a corporation that is a passive foreign investment company.
Dividends received by the Fund from a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) or another RIC generally are qualified dividend income only to the extent such dividend
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distributions are made out of qualified dividend income received by such REIT or RIC. Additionally, it is expected that dividends received by the Fund from a REIT and distributed to a shareholder generally will be taxable to the shareholder as ordinary income. However, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026, the Fund may report dividends eligible for a 20% “qualified business income” deduction for non-corporate U.S. shareholders to the extent the Fund’s income is derived from ordinary REIT dividends, reduced by allocable Fund expenses.
For a dividend to be treated as qualified dividend income, the dividend must be received with respect to a share of stock held without being hedged by the Fund, and with respect to a share of the Fund held without being hedged by you, for 61 days during the 121-day period beginning at the date which is 60 days before the date on which such share becomes ex-dividend with respect to such dividend or, in the case of certain preferred stock, 91 days during the 181-day period beginning 90 days before such date.
In general, your distributions are subject to U.S. federal income tax for the year when they are paid. Certain distributions paid in January, however, may be treated as paid on December 31 of the prior year.
If the Fund’s distributions exceed current and accumulated earnings and profits, all or a portion of the distributions made in the taxable year may be recharacterized as a return of capital to shareholders. Distributions in excess of the Fund’s minimum distribution requirements, but not in excess of the Fund’s earnings and profits, will be taxable to shareholders and will not constitute nontaxable returns of capital. A return of capital distribution generally will not be taxable but will reduce the shareholder’s cost basis and result in a higher capital gain or lower capital loss when those shares on which the distribution was received are sold. Once a shareholder's cost basis is reduced to zero, further distributions will be treated as capital gain, if the shareholder holds shares of the Fund as capital assets.
Dividends, interest and capital gains earned by the Fund with respect to securities issued by non-U.S. issuers may give rise to withholding, capital gains and other taxes imposed by non-U.S. countries. Tax conventions between certain countries and the U.S. may reduce or eliminate such taxes. If more than 50% of the total assets of the Fund at the close of a year consists of non-U.S. stocks or securities (generally, for this purpose, depositary receipts, no matter where traded, of non-U.S. companies are treated as “non-U.S.”), generally the Fund may “pass through” to you certain non-U.S. income taxes (including withholding taxes) paid by the Fund. This means that you would be considered to have received as an additional dividend your share of such non-U.S. taxes, but you may be entitled to either a corresponding tax deduction in calculating your taxable income, or, subject to certain limitations, a credit in calculating your U.S. federal income tax.
For purposes of foreign tax credits for U.S. shareholders of the Fund, foreign capital gains taxes may not produce associated foreign source income, limiting the availability of such credits for U.S. persons.
If you are neither a resident nor a citizen of the U.S. or if you are a non-U.S. entity (other than a pass-through entity to the extent owned by U.S. persons), the Fund’s
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ordinary income dividends (which include distributions of net short-term capital gains) will generally be subject to a 30% U.S. withholding tax, unless a lower treaty rate applies, provided that withholding tax will generally not apply to any gain or income realized by a non-U.S. shareholder in respect of any distributions of long-term capital gains or upon the sale or other disposition of shares of the Fund.
Separately, a 30% withholding tax is currently imposed on U.S.-source dividends, interest and other income items paid to (i) foreign financial institutions, including non-U.S. investment funds, unless they agree to collect and disclose to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) information regarding their direct and indirect U.S. account holders and (ii) certain other foreign entities, unless they certify certain information regarding their direct and indirect U.S. owners. To avoid withholding, foreign financial institutions will need to (i) enter into agreements with the IRS that state that they will provide the IRS information, including the names, addresses and taxpayer identification numbers of direct and indirect U.S. account holders, comply with due diligence procedures with respect to the identification of U.S. accounts, report to the IRS certain information with respect to U.S. accounts maintained, agree to withhold tax on certain payments made to non-compliant foreign financial institutions or to account holders who fail to provide the required information, and determine certain other information concerning their account holders, or (ii) in the event that an applicable intergovernmental agreement and implementing legislation are adopted, provide local revenue authorities with similar account holder information. Other foreign entities may need to report the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of each substantial U.S. owner or provide certifications of no substantial U.S. ownership unless certain exceptions apply.
If your Fund shares are loaned out pursuant to a securities lending arrangement, you may lose the ability to treat Fund dividends paid while the shares are held by the borrower as qualified dividend income. In addition, you may lose the ability to use foreign tax credits passed through by the Fund if your Fund shares are loaned out pursuant to a securities lending agreement.
If you are a resident or a citizen of the U.S., by law, backup withholding at a 24% rate will apply to your distributions and proceeds if you have not provided a taxpayer identification number or social security number and made other required certifications.
Taxes When Shares are Sold. Currently, any capital gain or loss realized upon a sale of Fund shares is generally treated as a long-term gain or loss if the shares have been held for more than one year. Any capital gain or loss realized upon a sale of Fund shares held for one year or less is generally treated as short-term gain or loss, except that any capital loss on the sale of shares held for six months or less is treated as long-term capital loss to the extent that capital gain dividends were paid with respect to such shares. Any such capital gains, including from sales of Fund shares or from capital gain dividends, are included in “net investment income” for purposes of the 3.8% U.S. federal Medicare contribution tax mentioned above.
The foregoing discussion summarizes some of the consequences under current U.S. federal tax law of an investment in the Fund. It is not a substitute for personal tax advice. You may also be subject to state and local taxation on Fund distributions and sales of
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shares. Consult your personal tax advisor about the potential tax consequences of an investment in shares of the Fund under all applicable tax laws.
Creations and Redemptions. Prior to trading in the secondary market, shares of the Fund are “created” at NAV by market makers, large investors and institutions only in block-size Creation Units of 100,000 shares or multiples thereof. Each “creator” or authorized participant (an “Authorized Participant”) has entered into an agreement with the Fund's distributor, BlackRock Investments, LLC (the “Distributor”), an affiliate of BFA.
A creation transaction, which is subject to acceptance by the Distributor and the Fund, generally takes place when an Authorized Participant deposits into the Fund a designated portfolio of securities (including any portion of such securities for which cash may be substituted) and a specified amount of cash approximating the holdings of the Fund in exchange for a specified number of Creation Units. To the extent practicable, the composition of such portfolio generally corresponds pro rata to the holdings of the Fund. However, creation and redemption baskets may differ. The Fund generally offers Creation Units partially for cash, but may, in certain circumstances, offer Creation Units solely for cash or solely in-kind.
Similarly, shares can be redeemed only in Creation Units, generally for a designated portfolio of securities (including any portion of such securities for which cash may be substituted) held by the Fund and a specified amount of cash. Except when aggregated in Creation Units, shares are not redeemable by the Fund.
The prices at which creations and redemptions occur are based on the next calculation of NAV after a creation or redemption order is received in an acceptable form under the authorized participant agreement.
Only an Authorized Participant may create or redeem Creation Units with the Fund. Authorized Participants may create or redeem Creation Units for their own accounts or for customers, including, without limitation, affiliates of the Fund.
In the event of a system failure or other interruption, including disruptions at market makers or Authorized Participants, orders to purchase or redeem Creation Units either may not be executed according to the Fund's instructions or may not be executed at all, or the Fund may not be able to place or change orders.
To the extent the Fund engages in in-kind transactions, the Fund intends to comply with the U.S. federal securities laws in accepting securities for deposit and satisfying redemptions with redemption securities by, among other means, assuring that any securities accepted for deposit and any securities used to satisfy redemption requests will be sold in transactions that would be exempt from registration under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “1933 Act”). Further, an Authorized Participant that is not a “qualified institutional buyer,” as such term is defined in Rule 144A under the 1933 Act, will not be able to receive restricted securities eligible for resale under Rule 144A.
Creations and redemptions must be made through a firm that is either a member of the Continuous Net Settlement System of the National Securities Clearing Corporation or a DTC participant that has executed an agreement with the Distributor with respect to creations and redemptions of Creation Unit aggregations. Information about the
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procedures regarding creation and redemption of Creation Units (including the cut-off times for receipt of creation and redemption orders) is included in the Fund's SAI.
Because new shares may be created and issued on an ongoing basis, at any point during the life of the Fund a “distribution,” as such term is used in the 1933 Act, may be occurring. Broker-dealers and other persons are cautioned that some activities on their part may, depending on the circumstances, result in their being deemed participants in a distribution in a manner that could render them statutory underwriters subject to the prospectus delivery and liability provisions of the 1933 Act. Any determination of whether one is an underwriter must take into account all the relevant facts and circumstances of each particular case.
Broker-dealers should also note that dealers who are not “underwriters” but are participating in a distribution (as contrasted to ordinary secondary transactions), and thus dealing with shares that are part of an “unsold allotment” within the meaning of Section 4(a)(3)(C) of the 1933 Act, would be unable to take advantage of the prospectus delivery exemption provided by Section 4(a)(3) of the 1933 Act. For delivery of prospectuses to exchange members, the prospectus delivery mechanism of Rule 153 under the 1933 Act is available only with respect to transactions on a national securities exchange.
Costs Associated with Creations and Redemptions. Authorized Participants are charged standard creation and redemption transaction fees to offset transfer, processing and other transaction costs associated with the issuance and redemption of Creation Units. The standard creation and redemption transaction fees are set forth in the table below. The standard creation and redemption transaction fees are charged on each Creation Unit created or redeemed, as applicable, by an Authorized Participant on the day of the transaction. The standard transaction fee is generally fixed at the amount shown in the table regardless of the number of Creation Units being purchased or redeemed, but may be reduced by the Fund if transfer and processing expenses associated with the creation or redemption are anticipated to be lower than the stated fee. If a purchase or redemption consists solely or partially of cash, the Authorized Participant may also be required to pay an additional transaction charge (up to the maximum amounts shown in the table below) to cover brokerage and certain other costs related to a creation or redemption transaction (which may, in certain instances, be based on a good faith estimate of transaction costs). Investors who use the services of a broker or other financial intermediary to acquire or dispose of Fund shares may pay fees for such services.
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The following table shows, as of June 15, 2020, the approximate value of one Creation Unit, standard transaction fees and maximum additional charges for creations and redemptions (as described above and in the Fund's SAI):
Approximate
Value of a
Creation Unit
  Creation
Unit Size
  Standard
Creation/
Redemption
Transaction Fee
  Maximum Additional
Charge for
Creations*
  Maximum Additional
Charge for
Redemptions*
$3,500,000   100,000   $14,800   7.0%   2.0%

* As a percentage of the net asset value per Creation Unit, inclusive, in the case of redemptions, of the standard redemption transaction fee.
If a purchase or redemption consists solely or partially of cash and the Fund places a brokerage transaction for portfolio securities with the Authorized Participant or its affiliated broker-dealer, the Authorized Participant (or an affiliated broker-dealer of the Authorized Participant) may be required, in its capacity as broker-dealer with respect to that transaction, to cover certain brokerage, tax, foreign exchange, execution, and price movement costs through a brokerage execution guarantee, as further described in the Fund’s SAI.
Householding. Householding is an option available to certain Fund investors. Householding is a method of delivery, based on the preference of the individual investor, in which a single copy of certain shareholder documents can be delivered to investors who share the same address, even if their accounts are registered under different names. Please contact your broker-dealer if you are interested in enrolling in householding and receiving a single copy of prospectuses and other shareholder documents, or if you are currently enrolled in householding and wish to change your householding status.
Distribution
The Distributor or its agent distributes Creation Units for the Fund on an agency basis. The Distributor does not maintain a secondary market in shares of the Fund. The Distributor has no role in determining the policies of the Fund or the securities that are purchased or sold by the Fund. The Distributor’s principal address is 1 University Square Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540.
BFA or its affiliates make payments to broker-dealers, registered investment advisers, banks or other intermediaries (together, “intermediaries”) related to marketing activities and presentations, educational training programs, conferences, the development of technology platforms and reporting systems, data provision services, or their making shares of the Fund and certain other iShares funds available to their customers generally and in certain investment programs. Such payments, which may be significant to the intermediary, are not made by the Fund. Rather, such payments are made by BFA or its affiliates from their own resources, which come directly or indirectly in part from fees paid by the iShares funds complex. Payments of this type are sometimes referred to as revenue-sharing payments. A financial intermediary may make decisions about which investment options it recommends or makes available, or the level of services provided, to its customers based on the payments or other
37

 


financial incentives it is eligible to receive. Therefore, such payments or other financial incentives offered or made to an intermediary create conflicts of interest between the intermediary and its customers and may cause the intermediary to recommend the Fund or other iShares funds over another investment. More information regarding these payments is contained in the Fund's SAI. Please contact your salesperson or other investment professional for more information regarding any such payments his or her firm may receive from BFA or its affiliates.
Financial Highlights
Financial highlights for the Fund are not available because, as of the effective date of this Prospectus, the Fund has not commenced operations and therefore has no financial highlights to report.
38

 


Index Provider
MSCI is a provider of investment decision support tools to investors globally. MSCI products and services include indices, portfolio risk and performance analytics, and governance tools. MSCI is not affiliated with the Trust, BFA, State Street, the Distributor or any of their respective affiliates.
BFA or its affiliates have entered into a license agreement with the Index Provider to use the Underlying Index. BFA or its affiliates sublicense rights in the Underlying Index to the Trust at no charge.
Disclaimers
The Fund is not sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by MSCI or any affiliate of MSCI. Neither MSCI nor any other party makes any representation or warranty, express or implied, to the owners of shares of the Fund or any member of the public regarding the advisability of investing in funds generally or in the Fund particularly or the ability of the Underlying Index to track general stock market performance. MSCI is the licensor of certain trademarks, service marks and trade names of MSCI and of the Underlying Index, which is determined, composed and calculated by MSCI without regard to the issuer of the Fund’s securities or the Fund. MSCI has no obligation to take the needs of the issuer of the Fund’s securities or the owners of shares of the Fund into consideration in determining, composing or calculating the Underlying Index. MSCI is not responsible for and has not participated in the determination of the timing of, prices at, or quantities of the Fund’s shares to be issued or in the determination or calculation of the equation by which the Fund’s shares are redeemable for cash. Neither MSCI nor any other party has any obligation or liability to owners of shares of the Fund in connection with the administration, marketing or trading of the Fund’s shares.
ALTHOUGH MSCI SHALL OBTAIN INFORMATION FOR INCLUSION IN OR FOR USE IN THE CALCULATION OF THE INDEXES FROM SOURCES WHICH MSCI CONSIDERS RELIABLE, NEITHER MSCI NOR ANY OTHER PARTY GUARANTEES THE ACCURACY AND/OR THE COMPLETENESS OF THE INDEXES OR ANY DATA INCLUDED THEREIN. NEITHER MSCI NOR ANY OTHER PARTY MAKES ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, AS TO RESULTS TO BE OBTAINED BY LICENSEE, LICENSEE’S CUSTOMERS AND COUNTERPARTIES, OWNERS OF SHARES OF THE FUND, OR ANY OTHER PERSON OR ENTITY FROM THE USE OF THE INDEXES OR ANY DATA INCLUDED THEREIN IN CONNECTION WITH THE RIGHTS LICENSED HEREUNDER OR FOR ANY OTHER USE. NEITHER MSCI NOR ANY OTHER PARTY MAKES ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, AND MSCI HEREBY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE WITH RESPECT TO THE INDEXES OR ANY DATA INCLUDED THEREIN. WITHOUT LIMITING ANY OF THE FOREGOING, IN NO EVENT SHALL MSCI OR ANY OTHER PARTY HAVE ANY LIABILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, PUNITIVE, CONSEQUENTIAL OR ANY OTHER DAMAGES (INCLUDING LOST PROFITS) EVEN IF NOTIFIED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
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Shares of the Fund are not sponsored, endorsed or promoted by NASDAQ. NASDAQ makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, to the owners of shares of the Fund or any member of the public regarding the ability of the Fund to track the total return performance of the Underlying Index or the ability of the Underlying Index to track stock market performance. NASDAQ is not responsible for, nor has it participated in, the determination of the compilation or the calculation of the Underlying Index, nor in the determination of the timing of, prices of, or quantities of shares of the Fund to be issued, nor in the determination or calculation of the equation by which the shares are redeemable. NASDAQ has no obligation or liability to owners of shares of the Fund in connection with the administration, marketing or trading of shares of the Fund.
NASDAQ does not guarantee the accuracy and/or the completeness of the Underlying Index or any data included therein. NASDAQ makes no warranty, express or implied, as to results to be obtained by the Trust on behalf of the Fund as licensee, licensee’s customers and counterparties, owners of shares of the Fund, or any other person or entity from the use of the Underlying Index or any data included therein in connection with the rights licensed as described herein or for any other use. NASDAQ makes no express or implied warranties and hereby expressly disclaims all warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose with respect to the Underlying Index or any data included therein. Without limiting any of the foregoing, in no event shall NASDAQ have any liability for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential or any other damages (including lost profits) even if notified of the possibility of such damages.
The past performance of the Underlying Index is not a guide to future performance. BFA and its affiliates do not guarantee the accuracy or the completeness of the Underlying Index or any data included therein and BFA and its affiliates shall have no liability for any errors, omissions or interruptions therein. BFA and its affiliates make no warranty, express or implied, to the owners of shares of the Fund or to any other person or entity, as to results to be obtained by the Fund from the use of the Underlying Index or any data included therein. Without limiting any of the foregoing, in no event shall BFA or its affiliates have any liability for any special, punitive, direct, indirect, consequential or any other damages (including lost profits), even if notified of the possibility of such damages.
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Want to know more?
iShares.com     |    1-800-474-2737
Copies of the Prospectus, SAI and other information can be found on our website at www.iShares.com. For more information about the Fund, you may request a copy of the SAI. The SAI provides detailed information about the Fund and is incorporated by reference into this Prospectus. This means that the SAI, for legal purposes, is a part of this Prospectus.
If you have any questions about the Trust or shares of the Fund or you wish to obtain the SAI free of charge, please:
Call: 1-800-iShares or 1-800-474-2737 (toll free)
Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Eastern time)
Email: iSharesETFs@blackrock.com
Write: c/o BlackRock Investments, LLC
1 University Square Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540
Reports and other information about the Fund are available on the EDGAR database on the SEC's website at www.sec.gov, and copies of this information may be obtained, after paying a duplicating fee, by electronic request at the following e-mail address: publicinfo@sec.gov.
No person is authorized to give any information or to make any representations about the Fund and its shares not contained in this Prospectus and you should not rely on any other information. Read and keep this Prospectus for future reference.
©2020 BlackRock, Inc. All rights reserved. iSHARES® and BLACKROCK® are registered trademarks of BFA and its affiliates. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
Investment Company Act File No.: 811-09729
IS-P-EMXF-0620


iShares® Trust
Statement of Additional Information
Dated June 15, 2020
This Statement of Additional Information (“SAI”) is not a prospectus. It should be read in conjunction with the current prospectus (the “Prospectus”) for the following series of iShares Trust (the “Trust”):
Fund   Ticker   Listing Exchange
iShares ESG Advanced MSCI EM ETF (the “Fund”)   EMXF   NASDAQ
The Prospectus for the Fund is dated June 15, 2020, as amended and supplemented from time to time. Capitalized terms used herein that are not defined have the same meaning as in the Prospectus, unless otherwise noted. A copy of the Prospectus for the Fund may be obtained without charge by writing to the Trust’s distributor, BlackRock Investments, LLC (the “Distributor” or “BRIL”), 1 University Square Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540, calling 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737) or visiting www.iShares.com. The Fund's Prospectus is incorporated by reference into this SAI.
References to the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “Investment Company Act” or the “1940 Act”), or other applicable law, will include any rules promulgated thereunder and any guidance, interpretations or modifications by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), SEC staff or other authority with appropriate jurisdiction, including court interpretations, and exemptive, no action or other relief or permission from the SEC, SEC staff or other authority.
iShares® and BlackRock® are registered trademarks of BlackRock Fund Advisors and its affiliates.

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS
  Page
General Description of the Trust and the Fund 1
Exchange Listing and Trading 1
Investment Strategies and Risks 2
Borrowing 2
Currency Transactions 3
Diversification Status 3
Futures, Options on Futures and Securities Options 3
Lending Portfolio Securities 4
Liquidity Risk Management 5
Non-U.S. Securities 5
Regulation Regarding Derivatives 6
Repurchase Agreements 7
Reverse Repurchase Agreements 7
Securities of Investment Companies 7
Short-Term Instruments and Temporary Investments 8
Swap Agreements 8
Tracking Stocks 8
Future Developments 8
General Considerations and Risks 8
Borrowing Risk 8
Currency Risk 8
Custody Risk 9
Illiquid Investments Risk 9
Operational Risk 9
Risk of Derivatives 9
Risk of Equity Securities 10
Risk of Futures and Options on Futures Transactions 10
Risk of Investing in Non-U.S. Equity Securities 11
Risk of Swap Agreements 11
Securities Lending Risk 11
Risk of Investing in Small-Capitalization Companies 11
Risk of Investing in Africa 12
Risk of Investing in Asia 13
Risk of Investing in Central and South America 14
Risk of Investing in China 14
Risk of Investing in the Chinese Equity Markets 15
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  Page
Risk of Investing in Eastern Europe 18
Risk of Investing in Europe 18
Risk of Investing in Emerging Markets 19
Risk of Investing in the Middle East 20
Risk of Investing in North America 21
Risk of Investing in Russia 22
Risk of Investing in Saudi Arabia 23
U.S. Economic Trading Partners Risk 24
Risk of Investing in the Communication Services Sector 25
Risk of Investing in the Consumer Discretionary Sector 25
Risk of Investing in the Consumer Staples Sector 26
Risk of Investing in the Financials Sector 26
Risk of Investing in the Healthcare Sector 27
Risk of Investing in the Industrials Sector 27
Risk of Investing in the Information Technology Sector 27
Risk of Investing in the Materials Sector 28
Risk of Investing in the Real Estate Industry 28
Proxy Voting Policy 29
Portfolio Holdings Information 30
Construction and Maintenance of the Underlying Index 31
The MSCI Indexes 31
MSCI Emerging Markets Choice ESG Screened 5% Issuer Capped Index 33
Investment Policies 35
Fundamental Investment Policies 35
Non-Fundamental Investment Policies 37
Continuous Offering 37
Management 38
Trustees and Officers 38
Committees of the Board of Trustees 44
Remuneration of Trustees and Advisory Board Members 49
Control Persons and Principal Holders of Securities 49
Potential Conflicts of Interest 49
Legal Proceedings 57
Investment Advisory, Administrative and Distribution Services 57
Investment Adviser 57
Portfolio Managers 58
Codes of Ethics 60
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  Page
Anti-Money Laundering Requirements 60
Administrator, Custodian and Transfer Agent 61
Distributor 61
Securities Lending 61
Payments by BFA and its Affiliates 62
Determination of Net Asset Value 63
Brokerage Transactions 66
Additional Information Concerning the Trust 69
Shares 69
DTC as Securities Depository for Shares of the Fund 70
Distribution of Shares 71
Creation and Redemption of Creation Units 71
General 71
Fund Deposit 72
Cash Purchase Method 72
Procedures for Creation of Creation Units 73
Role of the Authorized Participant 73
Purchase Orders 73
Timing of Submission of Purchase Orders 73
Acceptance of Orders for Creation Units 74
Issuance of a Creation Unit 74
Costs Associated with Creation Transactions 75
Redemption of Creation Units 75
Cash Redemption Method 76
Costs Associated with Redemption Transactions 76
Placement of Redemption Orders 77
Taxation on Creations and Redemptions of Creation Units 78
Taxes 78
Regulated Investment Company Qualifications 79
Taxation of RICs 79
Excise Tax 79
Net Capital Loss Carryforwards 80
Taxation of U.S. Shareholders 80
Sales of Shares 81
Backup Withholding 81
Sections 351 and 362 81
Taxation of Certain Derivatives 82
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General Description of the Trust and the Fund
The Trust currently consists of more than 300 investment series or portfolios. The Trust was organized as a Delaware statutory trust on December 16, 1999 and is authorized to have multiple series or portfolios. The Trust is an open-end management investment company registered with the SEC under the 1940 Act. The offering of the Trust’s shares is registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “1933 Act”). This SAI relates solely to the Fund.
The Fund is managed by BlackRock Fund Advisors (“BFA”), an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of BlackRock, Inc., and generally seeks to track the investment results of the specific benchmark index identified in the Fund's Prospectus (the “Underlying Index”).
The Fund offers and issues shares at their net asset value per share (“NAV”) only in aggregations of a specified number of shares (each, a “Creation Unit”), generally in exchange for a designated portfolio of securities (including any portion of such securities for which cash may be substituted) included in its Underlying Index (the “Deposit Securities”), together with the deposit of a specified cash payment (the “Cash Component”). Shares of the Fund are listed and trade on The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (“NASDAQ” or the “Listing Exchange”), a national securities exchange. Shares of the Fund are traded in the secondary market and elsewhere at market prices that may be at, above or below the Fund's NAV. Shares are redeemable only in Creation Units by Authorized Participants (as defined in the Portfolio Holdings Information section of this SAI), and, generally, in exchange for portfolio securities and a Cash Amount (as defined in the Redemption of Creation Units section of this SAI). Creation Units typically are a specified number of shares, generally 100,000 shares or multiples thereof.
The Trust reserves the right to permit or require that creations and redemptions of shares are effected fully or partially in cash and reserves the right to permit or require the substitution of Deposit Securities in lieu of cash. Shares may be issued in advance of receipt of Deposit Securities, subject to various conditions, including a requirement that the Authorized Participant maintain with the Trust a cash deposit equal to at least 105% and up to 122%, which percentage BFA may change from time to time, of the market value of the omitted Deposit Securities. The Trust may use such cash deposit at any time to purchase Deposit Securities. See the Creation and Redemption of Creation Units section of this SAI. Transaction fees and other costs associated with creations or redemptions that include a cash portion may be higher than the transaction fees and other costs associated with in-kind creations or redemptions. In all cases, conditions with respect to creations and redemptions of shares and fees will be limited in accordance with the requirements of SEC rules and regulations applicable to management investment companies offering redeemable securities.
Exchange Listing and Trading
A discussion of exchange listing and trading matters associated with an investment in the Fund is contained in the Shareholder Information section of the Fund's Prospectus. The discussion below supplements, and should be read in conjunction with, that section of the Prospectus.
Shares of the Fund are listed for trading, and trade throughout the day, on the Listing Exchange and in other secondary markets. Shares of the Fund may also be listed on certain non-U.S. exchanges. There can be no assurance that the requirements of the Listing Exchange necessary to maintain the listing of shares of the Fund will continue to be met. The Listing Exchange may, but is not required to, remove the shares of the Fund from listing if, among other things: (i) following the initial 12-month period beginning upon the commencement of trading of Fund shares, there are fewer than 50 record and/or beneficial owners of shares of the Fund for 30 or more consecutive trading days, (ii) the value of the Underlying Index on which the Fund is based is no longer calculated or available, or (iii) any event shall occur or condition shall exist that, in the opinion of the Listing Exchange, makes further dealings on the Listing Exchange inadvisable. The Listing Exchange will also remove shares of the Fund from listing and trading upon termination of the Fund or in the event the Fund does not comply with the continuous listing standards of the Listing Exchange, as described in the Fund’s Prospectus.
As in the case of other publicly-traded securities, when you buy or sell shares of the Fund through a broker, you may incur a brokerage commission determined by that broker, as well as other charges.
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In order to provide additional information regarding the indicative value of shares of the Fund, the Listing Exchange or a market data vendor disseminates information every 15 seconds through the facilities of the Consolidated Tape Association, or through other widely disseminated means, an updated indicative optimized portfolio value (“IOPV”) for the Fund as calculated by an information provider or market data vendor. The Trust is not involved in or responsible for any aspect of the calculation or dissemination of the IOPV and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the IOPV.
An IOPV has an equity securities component and a cash component. The equity securities values included in an IOPV are the values of the Deposit Securities for the Fund. While the IOPV reflects the current value of the Deposit Securities required to be deposited in connection with the purchase of a Creation Unit, it does not necessarily reflect the precise composition of the current portfolio of securities held by the Fund at a particular point in time because the current portfolio of the Fund may include securities that are not a part of the current Deposit Securities. Therefore, the Fund’s IOPV disseminated during the Listing Exchange trading hours should not be viewed as a real-time update of the Fund’s NAV, which is calculated only once a day.
The cash component included in an IOPV consists of estimated accrued interest, dividends and other income, less expenses. If applicable, each IOPV also reflects changes in currency exchange rates between the U.S. dollar and the applicable currency.
The Trust reserves the right to adjust the share prices of the Fund in the future to maintain convenient trading ranges for investors. Any adjustments would be accomplished through stock splits or reverse stock splits, which would have no effect on the net assets of the Fund or an investor's equity interest in the Fund.
Investment Strategies and Risks
The Fund seeks to achieve its objective by investing primarily in securities issued by issuers that comprise the Underlying Index and in investments that provide substantially similar exposure to securities in the Underlying Index. The Fund operates as an index fund and is not actively managed. Adverse performance of a security in the Fund’s portfolio will ordinarily not result in the elimination of the security from the Fund’s portfolio.
The Fund engages in representative sampling, which is investing in a sample of securities selected by BFA to have a collective investment profile similar to that of the Fund's Underlying Index. Securities selected have aggregate investment characteristics (based on market capitalization and industry weightings), fundamental characteristics (such as return variability, earnings valuation and yield) and liquidity measures similar to those of the Fund’s Underlying Index. A fund that uses representative sampling generally does not hold all of the securities that are in its underlying index.
Although the Fund does not seek leveraged returns, certain instruments used by the Fund may have a leveraging effect as described below.
Borrowing.  The Fund may borrow for temporary or emergency purposes, including to meet payments due from redemptions or to facilitate the settlement of securities or other transactions. The Fund is authorized to enter into a line of credit with State Street Bank and Trust Company (“State Street”) that may be used for temporary or emergency purposes, including redemption, settlement of trades and rebalancing of portfolio holdings.
The purchase of securities while borrowings are outstanding may have the effect of leveraging the Fund. The incurrence of leverage increases the Fund’s exposure to risk, and borrowed funds are subject to interest costs that will reduce net income. Purchasing securities while borrowings are outstanding creates special risks, such as the potential for greater volatility in the NAV of Fund shares and in the yield on the Fund’s portfolio. In addition, the interest expenses from borrowings may exceed the income generated by the Fund’s portfolio and, therefore, the amount available (if any) for distribution to shareholders as dividends may be reduced. BFA may determine to maintain outstanding borrowings if it expects that the benefits to the Fund’s shareholders will outweigh the current reduced return.
Certain types of borrowings by the Fund must be made from a bank or may result in the Fund being subject to covenants in credit agreements relating to asset coverage, portfolio composition requirements and other matters. It is not anticipated that observance of such covenants would impede BFA’s management of the Fund’s portfolio in accordance with the Fund’s investment objectives and policies. However, a breach of any such covenants not cured within the specified cure period may result in acceleration of outstanding indebtedness and require the Fund to dispose of portfolio investments at a time when it may be disadvantageous to do so.
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Currency Transactions.  A currency forward contract is an over-the-counter (“OTC”) obligation to purchase or sell a specific currency at a future date, which may be any fixed number of days greater than two days from the date on which the contract is agreed upon by the parties, at a price set at the time of the contract. A non-deliverable currency forward is an OTC currency forward settled in a specified currency, on a specified date, based on the difference between the agreed-upon exchange rate and the market exchange rate. A currency futures contract is a contract that trades on an organized futures exchange involving an obligation to deliver or acquire a specified amount of a specific currency, at a specified price and at a specified future time. Currency futures contracts may be settled on a net cash payment basis rather than by the sale and delivery of the underlying currency. To the extent required by law, liquid assets committed to futures contracts will be maintained. The Fund does not expect to engage in currency transactions for the purpose of hedging against declines in the value of the Fund's assets that are denominated in a non-U.S. currency. The Fund may enter into non-U.S. currency forward and non-U.S. currency futures transactions to facilitate local securities settlements or to protect against currency exposure in connection with its distributions to shareholders, but may not enter into such contracts for speculative purposes.
Foreign exchange transactions involve a significant degree of risk and the markets in which foreign exchange transactions are effected may be highly volatile, highly specialized and highly technical. Significant changes, including changes in liquidity and prices, can occur in such markets within very short periods of time, often within minutes. Foreign exchange trading risks include, but are not limited to, exchange rate risk, counterparty risk, maturity gap, interest rate risk, and potential interference by foreign governments through regulation of local exchange markets, foreign investment or particular transactions in non-U.S. currency. If BFA utilizes foreign exchange transactions at an inappropriate time or judges market conditions, trends or correlations incorrectly, foreign exchange transactions may not serve their intended purpose of improving the correlation of the Fund's return with the performance of the Underlying Index and may lower the Fund’s return. The Fund could experience losses if the value of its currency forwards, options or futures positions were poorly correlated with its other investments or if it could not close out its positions because of an illiquid market or otherwise. In addition, the Fund could incur transaction costs, including trading commissions, in connection with certain non-U.S. currency transactions.
Diversification Status.  The Fund is classified as “non-diversified.” A “non-diversified” fund is a fund that is not limited by the 1940 Act with regard to the percentage of its assets that may be invested in the securities of a single issuer. The securities of a particular issuer (or securities of issuers in particular industries) may constitute a significant percentage of the underlying index of such a fund and, consequently, the fund’s investment portfolio. This may adversely affect the fund’s performance or subject the fund’s shares to greater price volatility than that experienced by more diversified investment companies.
The Fund intends to maintain the required level of diversification and otherwise conduct its operations so as to qualify as a regulated investment company (“RIC”) for purposes of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Internal Revenue Code”), and to relieve the Fund of any liability for U.S. federal income tax to the extent that its earnings are distributed to shareholders, provided that the Fund satisfies a minimum distribution requirement. Compliance with the diversification requirements of the Internal Revenue Code may limit the investment flexibility of the Fund and may make it less likely that the Fund will meet its investment objective.
Futures, Options on Futures and Securities Options.  Futures contracts, options on futures and securities options may be used by the Fund to simulate investment in its Underlying Index, to facilitate trading or to reduce transaction costs. The Fund may enter into futures contracts and options on futures that are traded on a U.S. or non-U.S. futures exchange. The Fund will not use futures, options on futures or securities options for speculative purposes. The Fund intends to use futures and options on futures in accordance with Rule 4.5 of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) promulgated under the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”). BFA, with respect to the Fund, has claimed an exclusion from the definition of the term “commodity pool operator” in accordance with Rule 4.5 so that BFA, with respect to the Fund, is not subject to registration or regulation as a commodity pool operator under the CEA. See the Regulation Regarding Derivatives section of this SAI for more information.
Futures contracts provide for the future sale by one party and purchase by another party of a specified amount of a specific instrument or index at a specified future time and at a specified price. Stock index contracts are based on investments that reflect the market value of common stock of the firms included in the investments. The Fund may enter into futures contracts to purchase securities indexes when BFA anticipates purchasing the underlying securities and believes prices will rise before the purchase will be made. Upon entering into a futures contract, the Fund will be required to deposit with the broker an amount of cash or cash equivalents known as “initial margin,” which is similar to a performance bond or good faith deposit on the contract and is returned to the Fund upon termination of the futures contract if all contractual obligations have been satisfied. Subsequent payments, known as “variation margin,” will be made to and from the broker daily as the
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price of the instrument or index underlying the futures contract fluctuates, making the long and short positions in the futures contract more or less valuable, a process known as “marking-to-market.” At any time prior to the expiration of a futures contract, the Fund may elect to close the position by taking an opposite position, which will operate to terminate the Fund’s existing position in the contract. To the extent required by law, the Fund will segregate liquid assets in an amount equal to its delivery obligations under the futures contracts. An option on a futures contract, as contrasted with a direct investment in such a contract, gives the purchaser the right, but no obligation, in return for the premium paid, to assume a position in the underlying futures contract at a specified exercise price at any time prior to the expiration date of the option. Upon exercise of an option, the delivery of the futures position by the writer of the option to the holder of the option will be accompanied by delivery of the accumulated balance in the writer’s futures margin account that represents the amount by which the market price of the futures contract exceeds (in the case of a call) or is less than (in the case of a put) the exercise price of the option on the futures contract. The potential for loss related to the purchase of an option on a futures contract is limited to the premium paid for the option plus transaction costs. Because the value of the option is fixed at the point of sale, there are no daily cash payments by the purchaser to reflect changes in the value of the underlying contract; however, the value of the option changes daily and that change would be reflected in the NAV of the Fund. The potential for loss related to writing call options is unlimited. The potential for loss related to writing put options is limited to the agreed-upon price per share, also known as the “strike price,” less the premium received from writing the put. The Fund may purchase and write put and call options on futures contracts that are traded on an exchange as a hedge against changes in value of its portfolio securities or in anticipation of the purchase of securities, and may enter into closing transactions with respect to such options to terminate existing positions. There is no guarantee that such closing transactions can be effected.
Securities options may be used by the Fund to obtain access to securities in the Underlying Index or to dispose of securities in the Underlying Index at favorable prices, to invest cash in a securities index that offers similar exposure to that provided by the Underlying Index or otherwise to achieve the Fund’s objective of tracking the Underlying Index. A call option gives a holder the right to purchase a specific security at a specified price (“exercise price”) within a specified period of time. A put option gives a holder the right to sell a specific security at an exercise price within a specified period of time. The initial purchaser of a call option pays the “writer” a premium, which is paid at the time of purchase and is retained by the writer whether or not such option is exercised. The Fund may purchase put options to hedge its portfolio against the risk of a decline in the market value of securities held and may purchase call options to hedge against an increase in the price of securities it is committed to purchase. The Fund may write put and call options along with a long position in options to increase its ability to hedge against a change in the market value of the securities it holds or is committed to purchase. The Fund may purchase or sell securities options on a U.S. or non-U.S. securities exchange or in the OTC market through a transaction with a dealer. Options on a securities index are typically settled on a net basis based on the appreciation or depreciation of the index level over the strike price. Options on single name securities may be cash- or physically-settled, depending upon the market in which they are traded. Options may be structured so as to be exercisable only on certain dates or on a daily basis. Options may also be structured to have conditions to exercise (i.e., “Knock-in Events”) or conditions that trigger termination (i.e., “Knock-out Events”). Investments in futures contracts and other investments that contain leverage may require the Fund to maintain liquid assets in an amount equal to its delivery obligations under these contracts and other investments. Generally, the Fund maintains an amount of liquid assets equal to its obligations relative to the position involved, adjusted daily on a marked-to-market basis. With respect to futures contracts that are contractually required to “cash-settle,” the Fund maintains liquid assets in an amount at least equal to the Fund’s daily marked-to-market obligation (i.e., the Fund’s daily net liability, if any), rather than the contracts’ notional value (i.e., the value of the underlying asset). By maintaining assets equal to its net obligation under cash-settled futures contracts, the Fund may employ leverage to a greater extent than if the Fund were required to set aside assets equal to the futures contracts’ full notional value. The Fund bases its asset maintenance policies on methods permitted by the SEC and its staff and may modify these policies in the future to comply with any changes in the guidance articulated from time to time by the SEC or its staff. Changes in SEC guidance regarding the use of derivatives by registered investment companies may adversely impact the Fund’s ability to invest in futures, options or other derivatives or make investments in such instruments more expensive.
Lending Portfolio Securities.  The Fund may lend portfolio securities to certain borrowers that BFA determines to be creditworthy, including borrowers affiliated with BFA. The borrowers provide collateral that is maintained in an amount at least equal to the current market value of the securities loaned. No securities loan shall be made on behalf of the Fund if, as a result, the aggregate value of all securities loaned by the Fund exceeds one-third of the value of the Fund's total assets (including the value of the collateral received). The Fund may terminate a loan at any time and obtain the return of the securities loaned. The Fund receives, by way of substitute payment, the value of any interest or cash or non-cash distributions paid on the loaned securities that it would have received if the securities were not on loan.
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With respect to loans that are collateralized by cash, the borrower may be entitled to receive a fee based on the amount of cash collateral. The Fund is typically compensated by the difference between the amount earned on the reinvestment of cash collateral and the fee paid to the borrower. In the case of collateral other than cash, the Fund is typically compensated by a fee paid by the borrower equal to a percentage of the market value of the loaned securities. Any cash collateral may be reinvested in certain short-term instruments either directly on behalf of the Fund or through one or more joint accounts or money market funds, including those affiliated with BFA; such investments are subject to investment risk.
The Fund conducts its securities lending pursuant to an exemptive order from the SEC permitting it to lend portfolio securities to borrowers affiliated with the Fund and to retain an affiliate of the Fund to act as securities lending agent. To the extent that the Fund engages in securities lending, BlackRock Institutional Trust Company, N.A. (“BTC”) acts as securities lending agent for the Fund, subject to the overall supervision of BFA. BTC administers the lending program in accordance with guidelines approved by the Trust's Board of Trustees (the “Board,” the trustees of which are the “Trustees”).
Securities lending involves exposure to certain risks, including operational risk (i.e., the risk of losses resulting from problems in the settlement and accounting process), “gap” risk (i.e., the risk of a mismatch between the return on cash collateral reinvestments and the fees the Fund has agreed to pay a borrower), and credit, legal, counterparty and market risk. If a securities lending counterparty were to default, the Fund would be subject to the risk of a possible delay in receiving collateral or in recovering the loaned securities, or to a possible loss of rights in the collateral. In the event a borrower does not return the Fund’s securities as agreed, the Fund may experience losses if the proceeds received from liquidating the collateral do not at least equal the value of the loaned security at the time the collateral is liquidated, plus the transaction costs incurred in purchasing replacement securities. This event could trigger adverse tax consequences for the Fund. The Fund could lose money if its short-term investment of the collateral declines in value over the period of the loan. Substitute payments received by the Fund representing dividends paid on securities loaned out by the Fund will not be considered qualified dividend income. BTC will take into account the tax effects on shareholders caused by this difference in connection with the Fund’s securities lending program. Substitute payments received on tax-exempt securities loaned out will not be tax-exempt income.
Liquidity Risk Management.  Rule 22e-4 under the Investment Company Act (the “Liquidity Rule”) requires open-end funds, including exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) such as the Fund, to establish a liquidity risk management program (the “Liquidity Program”) and enhance disclosures regarding fund liquidity. As required by the Liquidity Rule, the Fund has implemented a Liquidity Program, and the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees of the Trust, has appointed BFA as the administrator of the Liquidity Program. Under the Liquidity Program, BFA assesses, manages, and periodically reviews the Fund’s liquidity risk and classifies each investment held by the Fund as a “highly liquid investment,” “moderately liquid investment,” “less liquid investment” or “illiquid investment.” The Liquidity Rule defines “liquidity risk” as the risk that the Fund could not meet requests to redeem shares issued by the Fund without significant dilution of the remaining investors’ interest in the Fund. The liquidity of the Fund's portfolio investments is determined based on relevant market, trading and investment-specific considerations under the Liquidity Program. There are exclusions from certain portions of the liquidity risk management program requirements for “in-kind” ETFs, as defined in the Liquidity Rule. To the extent that an investment is deemed to be an illiquid investment or a less liquid investment, the Fund can expect to be exposed to greater liquidity risk.
Non-U.S. Securities.  The Fund intends to purchase publicly-traded common stocks of non-U.S. issuers. To the extent the Fund invests in stocks of non-U.S. issuers, the Fund's investment in such stocks may be in the form of American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”), Global Depositary Receipts (“GDRs”) and European Depositary Receipts (“EDRs”) (collectively, “depositary receipts”). Depositary receipts are receipts, typically issued by a bank or trust issuer, which evidence ownership of underlying securities issued by a non-U.S. issuer. Depositary receipts may not necessarily be denominated in the same currency as their underlying securities. ADRs typically are issued by an American bank or trust company and evidence ownership of underlying securities issued by a foreign corporation. EDRs, which are sometimes referred to as continental depositary receipts, are receipts issued in Europe, typically by foreign banks and trust companies, that evidence ownership of either foreign or domestic underlying securities. GDRs are depositary receipts structured like global debt issues to facilitate trading on an international basis. Generally, ADRs, issued in registered form, are designed for use in the U.S. securities markets, and EDRs, issued in bearer form, are designed for use in European securities markets. GDRs are tradable both in the U.S. and in Europe and are designed for use throughout the world.
The Fund will not invest in any unlisted depositary receipt or any depositary receipt that BFA deems illiquid at the time of purchase or for which pricing information is not readily available. In general, depositary receipts must be sponsored, but the Fund may invest in unsponsored depositary receipts under certain limited circumstances.
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Depositary receipts are generally subject to the same risks as the foreign securities that they evidence or into which they may be converted. In addition to investment risks associated with the underlying issuer, depositary receipts expose the Fund to additional risks associated with the non-uniform terms that apply to depositary receipt programs, credit exposure to the depository bank and to the sponsors and other parties with whom the depository bank establishes the programs, currency risk and liquidity risk. Unsponsored programs, which are not sanctioned by the issuer of the underlying common stock, generally expose investors to greater risks than sponsored programs and do not provide holders with many of the shareholder benefits that come from investing in a sponsored depositary receipts.
Investing in the securities of non-U.S. issuers involves special risks and considerations not typically associated with investing in U.S. issuers. These include differences in accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards; the possibility of expropriation or confiscatory taxation; adverse changes in investment or exchange control regulations; political instability, which could affect U.S. investments in non-U.S. countries; and potential restrictions on the flow of international capital. Non-U.S. issuers may be subject to less governmental regulation than U.S. issuers. Moreover, individual non-U.S. economies may differ favorably or unfavorably from the U.S. economy in such respects as growth of gross domestic product (“GDP”), rate of inflation, capital reinvestment, resource self-sufficiency and balance of payment positions.
Regulation Regarding Derivatives.  The CFTC subjects advisers to registered investment companies to regulation by the CFTC if a fund that is advised by the adviser either (i) invests, directly or indirectly, more than a prescribed level of its liquidation value in CFTC-regulated futures, options and swaps (“CFTC Derivatives”) or (ii) markets itself as providing investment exposure to such instruments. The CFTC also subjects advisers to registered investment companies to regulation by the CFTC if the registered investment company invests in one or more commodity pools. To the extent the Fund uses CFTC Derivatives, it intends to do so below such prescribed levels and intends not to market itself as a “commodity pool” or a vehicle for trading such instruments.
BFA has claimed an exclusion from the definition of the term “commodity pool operator” under the CEA pursuant to Rule 4.5 under the CEA with respect to the Fund. BFA is not, therefore, subject to registration or regulation as a “commodity pool operator” under the CEA with respect to the Fund.
The Fund (the “No-Action Letter Fund”) may also have investments in “underlying funds” (and such underlying funds themselves may invest in underlying funds) not advised by BFA (the term “underlying fund” for purposes of the no-action letter referenced below may include, but is not limited to, certain securitized vehicles, mortgage or international real estate investment trusts, business development companies, and investment companies that may invest in CFTC Derivatives or in any of the foregoing), and therefore may be viewed by the CFTC as commodity pools. BFA has no transparency into the holdings of these underlying funds because they are not advised by BFA. To address this issue of lack of transparency, the CFTC staff issued a no-action letter on November 29, 2012 permitting the adviser of a fund that invests in such underlying funds and that would otherwise have filed a claim of exclusion pursuant to CFTC Rule 4.5 to delay registration as a “commodity pool operator” until six months from the date on which the CFTC issues additional guidance on the treatment of CFTC Derivatives held by underlying funds. BFA, the adviser of the No-Action Letter Fund, expects to file a claim with the CFTC for such fund to rely on this no-action relief. Assuming the CFTC does not reject such claim, BFA should not be subject to registration or regulation as a “commodity pool operator” under the CEA in respect of such fund.
Derivative contracts, including, without limitation, swaps, currency forwards, and non-deliverable forwards, are subject to regulation under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) in the U.S. and under comparable regimes in Europe, Asia and other non-U.S. jurisdictions. Swaps, non-deliverable forwards and certain other derivatives traded in the OTC market are subject to variation margin requirements, and initial margining requirements will be phased in through 2020. Implementation of the margining and other provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act regarding clearing, mandatory trading, reporting and documentation of swaps and other derivatives have impacted and may continue to impact the costs to the Fund of trading these instruments and, as a result, may affect returns to investors in the Fund.
As a result of regulatory requirements under the 1940 Act, the Fund is required to maintain an amount of liquid assets, accrued on a daily basis, having an aggregate value at least equal to the value of the Fund’s obligations under the applicable derivatives contract. To the extent that derivatives contracts are settled on a physical basis, the Fund will generally be required to maintain an amount of liquid assets equal to the notional value of the contract. On the other hand, in connection with derivatives contracts that are performed on a net basis, the Fund will generally be required to maintain liquid assets, accrued daily, equal only to the accrued excess, if any, of the Fund’s obligations over those of its counterparty under the contract. Accordingly, reliance by the Fund on physically-settled derivatives contracts may adversely impact investors by
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requiring the Fund to set aside a greater amount of liquid assets than would generally be required if the Fund were relying on cash-settled derivatives contracts.
Repurchase Agreements.  A repurchase agreement is an instrument under which the purchaser (i.e., the Fund) acquires a security and the seller agrees, at the time of the sale, to repurchase the security at a mutually agreed-upon time and price, thereby determining the yield during the purchaser’s holding period. Repurchase agreements may be construed to be collateralized loans by the purchaser to the seller secured by the securities transferred to the purchaser. If a repurchase agreement is construed to be a collateralized loan, the underlying securities will not be considered to be owned by the Fund but only to constitute collateral for the seller’s obligation to pay the repurchase price, and, in the event of a default by the seller, the Fund may suffer time delays and incur costs or losses in connection with the disposition of the collateral.
In any repurchase transaction, the collateral for a repurchase agreement may include: (i) cash items; (ii) obligations issued by the U.S. government or its agencies or instrumentalities; or (iii) obligations that, at the time the repurchase agreement is entered into, are determined to (A) have exceptionally strong capacity to meet their financial obligations and (B) are sufficiently liquid such that they can be sold at approximately their carrying value in the ordinary course of business within seven days.
Repurchase agreements pose certain risks for the Fund, should it decide to utilize them. Such risks are not unique to the Fund, but are inherent in repurchase agreements. The Fund seeks to minimize such risks, but because of the inherent legal uncertainties involved in repurchase agreements, such risks cannot be eliminated. Lower quality collateral and collateral with a longer maturity may be subject to greater price fluctuations than higher quality collateral and collateral with a shorter maturity. If the repurchase agreement counterparty were to default, lower quality collateral may be more difficult to liquidate than higher quality collateral. Should the counterparty default and the amount of collateral not be sufficient to cover the counterparty’s repurchase obligation, the Fund would likely retain the status of an unsecured creditor of the counterparty (i.e., the position the Fund would normally be in if it were to hold, pursuant to its investment policies, other unsecured debt securities of the defaulting counterparty) with respect to the amount of the shortfall. As an unsecured creditor, the Fund would be at risk of losing some or all of the principal and income involved in the transaction.
Reverse Repurchase Agreements.  Reverse repurchase agreements involve the sale of securities with an agreement to repurchase the securities at an agreed-upon price, date and interest payment and have the characteristics of borrowing. Generally, the effect of such transactions is that the Fund can recover all or most of the cash invested in the portfolio securities involved during the term of the reverse repurchase agreement, while in many cases the Fund is able to keep some of the interest income associated with those securities. Such transactions are advantageous only if the Fund has an opportunity to earn a rate of interest on the cash derived from these transactions that is greater than the interest cost of obtaining the same amount of cash. Opportunities to realize earnings from the use of the proceeds equal to or greater than the interest required to be paid may not always be available, and the Fund intends to use the reverse repurchase technique only when BFA believes it will be advantageous to the Fund. The use of reverse repurchase agreements may exaggerate any increase or decrease in the value of the Fund’s assets. The Fund's exposure to reverse repurchase agreements will be covered by liquid assets having a value equal to or greater than the Fund's obligations under such commitments. The use of reverse repurchase agreements is a form of leverage, and the proceeds obtained by the Fund through reverse repurchase agreements may be invested in additional securities.
Securities of Investment Companies.  The Fund may invest in the securities of other investment companies (including money market funds) to the extent permitted by law. Pursuant to the 1940 Act, the Fund’s investment in registered investment companies is generally limited to, subject to certain exceptions: (i) 3% of the total outstanding voting stock of any one investment company; (ii) 5% of the Fund’s total assets with respect to any one investment company; and (iii) 10% of the Fund’s total assets with respect to investment companies in the aggregate. To the extent allowed by law or regulation, the Fund intends from time to time to invest its assets in the securities of investment companies, including, but not limited to, money market funds, including those advised by or otherwise affiliated with BFA, in excess of the general limits discussed above. Other investment companies in which the Fund may invest can be expected to incur fees and expenses for operations, such as investment advisory and administration fees, which would be in addition to those incurred by the Fund. Pursuant to guidance issued by the SEC staff, fees and expenses of money market funds used for cash collateral received in connection with loans of securities are not treated as Acquired Fund Fees and Expenses, which reflect the Fund’s pro rata share of the fees and expenses incurred by investing in other investment companies (as disclosed in the Prospectus, as applicable).
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Short-Term Instruments and Temporary Investments.  The Fund may invest in short-term instruments, including money market instruments, on an ongoing basis to provide liquidity or for other reasons. Money market instruments are generally short-term investments that may include, but are not limited to: (i) shares of money market funds (including those advised by BFA or otherwise affiliated with BFA); (ii) obligations issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities (including government-sponsored enterprises); (iii) negotiable certificates of deposit (“CDs”), bankers’ acceptances, fixed-time deposits and other obligations of U.S. and non-U.S. banks (including non-U.S. branches) and similar institutions; (iv) commercial paper rated, at the date of purchase, “Prime-1” by Moody's® Investors Service, Inc., “F-1” by Fitch Ratings, Inc., or “A-1” by Standard & Poor's® Global Ratings, a subsidiary of S&P Global, Inc., or if unrated, of comparable quality as determined by BFA; (v) non-convertible corporate debt securities (e.g., bonds and debentures) with remaining maturities at the date of purchase of not more than 397 days and that have been determined to present minimal credit risks, in accordance with the requirements set forth in Rule 2a-7 under the 1940 Act; (vi) repurchase agreements; and (vii) short-term U.S. dollar-denominated obligations of non-U.S. banks (including U.S. branches) that, in the opinion of BFA, are of comparable quality to obligations of U.S. banks that may be purchased by the Fund. Any of these instruments may be purchased on a current or forward-settled basis. Time deposits are non-negotiable deposits maintained in banking institutions for specified periods of time at stated interest rates. Bankers’ acceptances are time drafts drawn on commercial banks by borrowers, usually in connection with international transactions.
Swap Agreements.  Swap agreements are contracts between parties in which one party agrees to make periodic payments to the other party based on a pre-determined underlying investment or notional amount. In return, the other party agrees to make periodic payments to the first party based on the return (or a differential in rate of return) earned or realized on the underlying investment or notional amount. Swap agreements will usually be performed on a net basis, with the Fund receiving or paying only the net amount of the two payments. The net amount of the excess, if any, of the Fund’s obligations over its entitlements with respect to each swap is accrued on a daily basis, and an amount of liquid assets having an aggregate value at least equal to the accrued excess will be maintained by the Fund.
The use of swaps is a highly specialized activity that involves investment techniques and risks different from those associated with ordinary portfolio security transactions. These transactions generally do not involve the delivery of securities or other underlying assets.
Tracking Stocks.  A tracking stock is a separate class of common stock whose value is linked to a specific business unit or operating division within a larger company and is designed to “track” the performance of such business unit or division. The tracking stock may pay dividends to shareholders independent of the parent company. The parent company, rather than the business unit or division, generally is the issuer of tracking stock. However, holders of the tracking stock may not have the same rights as holders of the company’s common stock.
Future Developments.  The Board may, in the future, authorize the Fund to invest in securities contracts and investments, other than those listed in this SAI and in the Prospectus, provided they are consistent with the Fund's investment objective and do not violate any of its investment restrictions or policies.
General Considerations and Risks
A discussion of some of the principal risks associated with an investment in the Fund is contained in the Prospectus.
An investment in the Fund should be made with an understanding that the value of the Fund’s portfolio securities may fluctuate in accordance with changes in the financial condition of the issuers of the portfolio securities, the value of stocks in general, and other factors that affect the market. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
Borrowing Risk.  Borrowing may exaggerate changes in the NAV of Fund shares and in the return on the Fund’s portfolio. Borrowing will cause the Fund to incur interest expense and other fees. The costs of borrowing may reduce the Fund’s return. Borrowing may cause the Fund to liquidate positions when it may not be advantageous to do so to satisfy its obligations.
Currency Risk.  Because the Fund's NAV is determined on the basis of the U.S. dollar, investors may lose money if the currency of a non-U.S. market in which the Fund invests depreciates against the U.S. dollar, even if the local currency value of the Fund’s holdings in that market increases. Generally, when the U.S. dollar rises in value against a foreign currency, a
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security denominated in that currency loses value because the currency is worth fewer U.S. dollars. Conversely, when the U.S. dollar decreases in value against a foreign currency, a security denominated in that currency gains value because the currency is worth more U.S. dollars. This risk, generally known as “currency risk,” means that a strong U.S. dollar will reduce returns for U.S. investors, while a weak U.S. dollar will increase those returns.
Foreign exchange transactions involve a significant degree of risk and the markets in which foreign exchange transactions are effected are highly volatile, highly specialized and highly technical. Significant changes, including changes in liquidity and prices, can occur in such markets within very short periods of time, often within minutes. If BFA utilizes foreign exchange transactions at an inappropriate time or judges market conditions, trends or correlations incorrectly, foreign exchange transactions may not serve their intended purpose of improving the Fund’s performance and may lower the Fund’s return. The Fund could experience losses if the value of its currency forward positions are poorly correlated with its other investments or if it cannot close out its positions because of an illiquid market. In addition, the Fund could incur transaction costs, including trading commissions, in connection with certain non-U.S. currency transactions.
Custody Risk.  Custody risk refers to the risks inherent in the process of clearing and settling trades and to the holding of securities, cash and other assets by local banks, agents and depositories. Low trading volumes and volatile prices in less developed markets make trades harder to complete and settle, and governments or trade groups may compel local agents to hold securities in designated depositories that may not be subject to independent evaluation. Local agents are held only to the standards of care of their local markets, and thus may be subject to limited or no government oversight. Communications between the U.S. and emerging market countries may be unreliable, increasing the risk of delayed settlements or losses of security certificates. In general, the less developed a country’s securities market is, the greater the likelihood of custody problems. Practices in relation to the settlement of securities transactions in emerging markets involve higher risks than those in developed markets, in part because of the use of brokers and counterparties that are often less well capitalized, and custody and registration of assets in some countries may be unreliable. The possibility of fraud, negligence or undue influence being exerted by the issuer or refusal to recognize ownership exists in some emerging markets, and, along with other factors, could result in ownership registration being lost. In addition, the laws of certain countries may put limits on the Fund’s ability to recover its assets if a foreign bank or depository or issuer of a security or an agent of any of the foregoing goes bankrupt. The Fund would absorb any loss resulting from such custody problems and may have no successful claim for compensation.
Illiquid Investments Risk.  The Fund may invest up to an aggregate amount of 15% of its net assets in illiquid investments. An illiquid investment is any investment that the Fund reasonably expects cannot be sold or disposed of in current market conditions in seven calendar days or less without significantly changing the market value of the investment. The liquidity of an investment will be determined based on relevant market, trading and investment specific considerations as set out in the Liquidity Program as required by the Liquidity Rule. Illiquid investments may trade at a discount to comparable, more liquid investments and the Fund may not be able to dispose of illiquid investments in a timely fashion or at their expected prices. If illiquid investments exceed 15% of the Fund’s net assets, the Liquidity Rule and the Liquidity Program will require that certain remedial actions be taken.
Operational Risk.  BFA and the Fund's other service providers may experience disruptions or operating errors such as processing errors or human errors, inadequate or failed internal or external processes, or systems or technology failures, that could negatively impact the Fund. While service providers are required to have appropriate operational risk management policies and procedures, their methods of operational risk management may differ from the Fund’s in the setting of priorities, the personnel and resources available or the effectiveness of relevant controls. BFA, through its monitoring and oversight of service providers, seeks to ensure that service providers take appropriate precautions to avoid and mitigate risks that could lead to disruptions and operating errors. However, it is not possible for BFA or the other Fund service providers to identify all of the operational risks that may affect the Fund or to develop processes and controls to completely eliminate or mitigate their occurrence or effects.
Risk of Derivatives.  A derivative is a financial contract, the value of which depends on, or is derived from, the value of an underlying asset, such as a security, a commodity (such as gold or silver), a currency or an index (a measure of value or rates, such as the S&P 500® or the prime lending rate). The Fund may invest in futures contracts, securities options and other derivatives. Compared to securities, derivatives can be more sensitive to changes in interest rates or to sudden fluctuations in market prices and thus the Fund’s losses may be greater if it invests in derivatives than if it invests only in conventional securities. Derivatives are also subject to counterparty risk, which is the risk that the other party in the transaction will not
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fulfill its contractual obligations. Derivatives generally involve the incurrence of leverage. To address such leverage and to prevent the Fund from being deemed to have issued senior securities as a result of an investment in derivatives, the Fund will segregate liquid assets equal to its obligations under the derivatives throughout the life of the investment.
When a derivative is used as a hedge against a position that the Fund holds or is committed to purchase, any loss generated by the derivative generally should be substantially offset by gains on the hedged investment, and vice versa. While hedging can reduce or eliminate losses, it can also reduce or eliminate gains and, in some cases, hedging can cause losses that are not offset by gains, and the Fund will recognize losses on both the investment and the hedge. Hedges are sometimes subject to imperfect matching between the derivative and the underlying security, and there can be no assurance that the Fund's hedging transactions, which entail additional transaction costs, will be effective.
Risk of Equity Securities.  An investment in the Fund should be made with an understanding of the risks inherent in an investment in equity securities, including the risk that the financial condition of issuers may become impaired or that the general condition of stock markets may deteriorate (either of which may cause a decrease in the value of the portfolio securities and thus in the value of shares of the Fund). Common stocks are susceptible to general stock market fluctuations and to increases and decreases in value as market confidence and perceptions of their issuers change. These investor perceptions are based on various and unpredictable factors, including expectations regarding government, economic, monetary and fiscal policies, inflation and interest rates, economic expansion or contraction, and global or regional political, economic or banking crises. Holders of common stocks incur more risks than holders of preferred stocks and debt obligations because common stockholders generally have rights to receive payments from stock issuers that are inferior to the rights of creditors, or holders of debt obligations or preferred stocks. Further, unlike debt securities, which typically have a stated principal amount payable at maturity (the value of which, however, is subject to market fluctuations prior to maturity), or preferred stocks, which typically have a liquidation preference and which may have stated optional or mandatory redemption provisions, common stocks have neither a fixed principal amount nor a maturity date. In addition, issuers may, in times of distress or at their own discretion, decide to reduce or eliminate dividends, which may also cause their stock price to decline.
Although most of the securities in the Underlying Index are listed on a securities exchange, the principal trading market for some of the securities may be in the OTC market. The existence of a liquid trading market for certain securities may depend on whether dealers will make a market in such securities. There can be no assurance that a market will be made or maintained or that any such market will be or remain liquid. The price at which securities may be sold and the value of the Fund’s shares will be adversely affected if trading markets for the Fund’s portfolio securities are limited or absent, or if bid/ask spreads are wide.
Risk of Futures and Options on Futures Transactions.  There are several risks accompanying the utilization of futures contracts and options on futures contracts. A position in futures contracts and options on futures contracts may be closed only on the exchange on which the contract was made (or a linked exchange). While the Fund plans to utilize futures contracts only if an active market exists for such contracts, there is no guarantee that a liquid market will exist for the contract at a specified time. Futures contracts, by definition, project price levels in the future and not current levels of valuation; therefore, market circumstances may result in a discrepancy between the price of the future and the movement in the Fund's Underlying Index. In the event of adverse price movements, the Fund would continue to be required to make daily cash payments to maintain its required margin. In such situations, if the Fund has insufficient cash, it may have to sell portfolio securities to meet daily margin requirements at a time when it may be disadvantageous to do so. In addition, the Fund may be required to deliver the instruments underlying the futures contracts it has sold.
The risk of loss in trading futures contracts or uncovered call options in some strategies (e.g., selling uncovered stock index futures contracts) is potentially unlimited. The Fund does not plan to use futures and options contracts in this way. The risk of a futures position may still be large as traditionally measured due to the low margin deposits required. In many cases, a relatively small price movement in a futures contract may result in immediate and substantial loss or gain to the investor relative to the size of a required margin deposit. The Fund, however, intends to utilize futures and options contracts in a manner designed to limit the risk exposure to levels comparable to a direct investment in the types of stocks in which it invests.
Utilization of futures and options on futures by the Fund involves the risk of imperfect or even negative correlation to the Underlying Index if the index underlying the futures contract differs from the Underlying Index. There is also the risk of loss of margin deposits in the event of bankruptcy of a broker with whom the Fund has an open position in the futures contract or
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option. The purchase of put or call options will be based upon predictions by BFA as to anticipated trends, which predictions could prove to be incorrect.
Because the futures market generally imposes less burdensome margin requirements than the securities market, an increased amount of participation by speculators in the futures market could result in price fluctuations. Certain financial futures exchanges limit the amount of fluctuation permitted in futures contract prices during a single trading day. The daily limit establishes the maximum amount by which the price of a futures contract may vary either up or down from the previous day’s settlement price at the end of a trading session. Once the daily limit has been reached in a particular type of contract, no trades may be made on that day at a price beyond that limit. It is possible that futures contract prices could move to the daily limit for several consecutive trading days with little or no trading, thereby preventing prompt liquidation of futures positions and subjecting the Fund to substantial losses. In the event of adverse price movements, the Fund would be required to make daily cash payments of variation margin.
Risk of Investing in Non-U.S. Equity Securities.  An investment in the Fund involves risks similar to those of investing in portfolios of equity securities traded on non-U.S. exchanges. These risks include market fluctuations caused by such factors as economic and political developments in those foreign countries, changes in interest rates and perceived trends in stock prices. Investing in securities issued by issuers domiciled in countries other than the domicile of the investor and denominated in currencies other than an investor’s local currency entails certain considerations and risks not typically encountered by the investor in making investments in its home country and in that country’s currency. These considerations include favorable or unfavorable changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, exchange control regulations and the costs that may be incurred in connection with conversions between various currencies. Investing in the Fund also involves certain risks and considerations not typically associated with investing in a fund whose portfolio contains exclusively securities of U.S. issuers. These risks include generally less liquid and less efficient securities markets; generally greater price volatility; less publicly available information about issuers; the imposition of withholding or other taxes; the imposition of restrictions on the expatriation of funds or other assets of the Fund; higher transaction and custody costs; delays and risks attendant in settlement procedures; difficulties in enforcing contractual obligations; lower liquidity and significantly smaller market capitalization; different accounting and disclosure standards; lower levels of regulation of the securities markets; more substantial government interference with the economy and businesses; higher rates of inflation; greater social, economic, and political uncertainty; the risk of nationalization or expropriation of assets; and the risk of war.
Risk of Swap Agreements.  The risk of loss with respect to swaps is generally limited to the net amount of payments that the Fund is contractually obligated to make. Swap agreements are subject to the risk that the swap counterparty will default on its obligations. If such a default occurs, the Fund will have contractual remedies pursuant to the agreements related to the transaction. However, such remedies may be subject to bankruptcy and insolvency laws, which could affect the Fund’s rights as a creditor (e.g., the Fund may not receive the net amount of payments that it is contractually entitled to receive).
The Fund is required to post and collect variation margin (comprised of specified liquid securities subject to haircuts) in connection with trading of OTC swaps. Initial margin requirements are in the process of being phased in, and the Fund may be subject to such requirements as early as September 2020. These requirements may raise the costs for the Fund’s investment in swaps.
Securities Lending Risk.  The Fund may engage in securities lending. Securities lending involves the risk that the Fund may lose money because the borrower of the loaned securities fails to return the securities in a timely manner or at all. The Fund could also lose money in the event of a decline in the value of collateral provided for loaned securities or a decline in the value of any investments made with cash collateral. These events could also trigger adverse tax consequences for the Fund.
Risk of Investing in Small-Capitalization Companies.  Stock prices of small-capitalization companies may be more volatile than those of larger companies, and, therefore, the Fund's share price may be more volatile than that of funds that invest a larger percentage of their assets in stocks issued by large-capitalization or mid-capitalization companies. Stock prices of small-capitalization companies are generally more vulnerable than those of large-capitalization or mid-capitalization companies to adverse business and economic developments. The stocks of small-capitalization companies may be thinly traded, making it difficult for the Fund to buy and sell them. In addition, small-capitalization companies are typically less financially stable than larger, more established companies and may depend on a small number of essential personnel, making them more vulnerable to loss of personnel. Small-capitalization companies also normally have less diverse product lines than large-capitalization companies and are more susceptible to adverse developments concerning their products.
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Risk of Investing in Africa.  Investments in securities of issuers in certain African countries involve heightened risks including, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision-making, armed conflict, civil war, and social instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socio-economic unrest or widespread outbreaks of disease and, in certain countries, genocidal warfare.
Certain countries in Africa generally have less developed capital markets than traditional emerging market countries, and, consequently, the risks of investing in foreign securities are magnified in such countries. Because securities markets of countries in Africa are generally underdeveloped and are generally less correlated to global economic cycles than those markets located in more developed countries, securities markets in African countries are subject to greater risks associated with market volatility, lower market capitalization, lower trading volume, illiquidity, inflation, greater price fluctuations and uncertainty regarding the existence of trading markets. Moreover, trading on African securities markets may be suspended altogether.
Market volatility may also be heightened by the actions of a small number of investors. Brokerage firms in certain countries in Africa may be fewer in number and less established than brokerage firms in more developed markets. Since the Fund may need to effect securities transactions through these brokerage firms, the Fund is subject to the risk that these brokerage firms will not be able to fulfill their obligations to the Fund (i.e., counterparty risk). This risk is magnified to the extent that the Fund effects securities transactions through a single brokerage firm or a small number of brokerage firms.
Certain governments in African countries restrict or control to varying degrees the ability of foreign investors to invest in securities of issuers located or operating in those countries. Moreover, certain countries in Africa require governmental approval or special licenses prior to investment by foreign investors and may limit the amount of investment by foreign investors in a particular industry and/or issuer, and may limit such foreign investment to a certain class of securities of an issuer that may have less advantageous rights than the classes available for purchase by domestic investors of the countries and/or impose additional taxes on foreign investors. A delay in obtaining a government approval or a license would delay investments in a particular country, and, as a result, the Fund may not be able to invest in certain securities while approval is pending. The government of a particular country may also withdraw or decline to renew a license that enables the Fund to invest in such country. These factors make investing in issuers located or operating in countries in Africa significantly riskier than investing in issuers located or operating in more developed countries, and any one of these factors could cause a decline in the value of the Fund's investments. Issuers located or operating in countries in Africa are generally not subject to the same rules and regulations as issuers located or operating in more developed countries. Therefore, there may be less financial and other information publicly available with regard to issuers located or operating in countries in Africa and such issuers are generally not subject to the uniform accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards applicable to issuers located or operating in more developed countries.
In addition, governments of certain countries in Africa in which the Fund may invest may levy withholding or other taxes on income such as dividends, interest and realized capital gains. Although in certain countries in Africa a portion of these taxes are recoverable, the non-recovered portion of foreign withholding taxes will reduce the income received from investments in such countries.
Investment in countries in Africa may be subject to a greater degree of risk associated with governmental approval in connection with the repatriation of investment income, capital or the proceeds of sales of securities by foreign investors. In addition, there is the risk that if an African country’s balance of payments declines, such African country may impose temporary restrictions on foreign capital remittances. Consequently, the Fund could be adversely affected by delays in, or a refusal to grant, required governmental approval for repatriation of capital, as well as by the application to the Fund of any restrictions on investments. Additionally, investments in countries in Africa may require the Fund to adopt special procedures, seek local government approvals or take other actions, each of which may involve additional costs to the Fund.
Securities laws in many countries in Africa are relatively new and unsettled and, consequently, there is a risk of rapid and unpredictable change in laws regarding foreign investment, securities regulation, title to securities and shareholder rights. Accordingly, foreign investors may be adversely affected by new or amended laws and regulations. In addition, there may be no single centralized securities exchange on which securities are traded in certain countries in Africa and the systems of corporate governance to which issuers located in countries in Africa are subject may be less advanced than those systems to which issuers located in more developed countries are subject, and, therefore, shareholders of issuers located in such countries may not receive many of the protections available to shareholders of issuers located in more developed countries.
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Even in circumstances where adequate laws and shareholder rights exist, it may not be possible to obtain swift and equitable enforcement of the law. In addition, the enforcement of systems of taxation at federal, regional and local levels in countries in Africa may be inconsistent and subject to sudden change.
Certain countries in Africa may be heavily dependent upon international trade and, consequently, have been and may continue to be negatively affected by trade barriers, exchange controls, managed adjustments in relative currency values and other protectionist measures imposed or negotiated by the countries with which they trade. These countries also have been and may continue to be adversely affected by economic conditions in the countries with which they trade. Certain countries in Africa depend to a significant extent upon exports of primary commodities such as gold, silver, copper and diamonds. These countries therefore are vulnerable to changes in commodity prices, which may be affected by a variety of factors. In addition, certain issuers located in countries in Africa in which the Fund invests may operate in, or have dealings with, countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations, and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, an issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer which operates in, or has dealings with, such countries. The Fund, as an investor in such issuers, will be indirectly subject to those risks.
The governments of certain countries in Africa may exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector and may own or control many companies. Future government actions could have a significant effect on the economic conditions in such countries, which could have a negative impact on private sector companies. There is also the possibility of diplomatic developments that could adversely affect investments in certain countries in Africa. Some countries in Africa may be affected by a greater degree of public corruption and crime, including organized crime.
Political instability and protests in North Africa and the Middle East have caused significant disruptions to many industries. In addition, the outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa severely challenged health care industries in those countries and adversely impacted the region’s economy due to quarantines and disruptions of trade, which has further increased instability in the region. This instability has demonstrated that political and social unrest can spread quickly through the region, and that developments in one country can influence the political events in neighboring countries. Some protests have turned violent, and civil war and political reconstruction in certain countries such as Libya, Iraq and Syria pose a risk to investments in the region. Continued political and social unrest in these regions, including the ongoing warfare and terrorist activities in the Middle East and Africa, may negatively affect the value of an investment in the Fund.
Risk of Investing in Asia.   Investments in securities of issuers in certain Asian countries involve risks not typically associated with investments in securities of issuers in other regions. Such heightened risks include, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, confiscatory taxation, piracy of intellectual property, data and other security breaches (especially of data stored electronically), political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision-making, armed conflict and social instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socio-economic unrest. Certain Asian economies have experienced rapid rates of economic growth and industrialization in recent years, and there is no assurance that these rates of economic growth and industrialization will be maintained.
Certain Asian countries have democracies with relatively short histories, which may increase the risk of political instability. These countries have faced political and military unrest, and further unrest could present a risk to their local economies and securities markets. Indonesia and the Philippines have each experienced violence and terrorism, which has negatively impacted their economies. North Korea and South Korea each have substantial military capabilities, and historical tensions between the two countries present the risk of war. Escalated tensions involving the two countries and any outbreak of hostilities between the two countries, or even the threat of an outbreak of hostilities, could have a severe adverse effect on the entire Asian region. Certain Asian countries have also developed increasingly strained relationships with the U.S., and if these relations were to worsen, they could adversely affect Asian issuers that rely on the U.S. for trade. Political, religious, and border disputes persist in India. India has recently experienced and may continue to experience civil unrest and hostilities with certain of its neighboring countries. Increased political and social unrest in these geographic areas could adversely affect the performance of investments in this region.
Certain governments in this region administer prices on several basic goods, including fuel and electricity, within their respective countries. Certain governments may exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector in their respective countries and may own or control many companies. Future government actions could have a significant effect on the economic conditions in this region, which in turn could have a negative impact on private sector companies. There is also the possibility of diplomatic developments adversely affecting investments in the region.
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Corruption and the perceived lack of a rule of law in dealings with international companies in certain Asian countries may discourage foreign investment and could negatively impact the long-term growth of certain economies in this region. In addition, certain countries in the region are experiencing high unemployment and corruption, and have fragile banking sectors.
Some economies in this region are dependent on a range of commodities, including oil, natural gas and coal. Accordingly, they are strongly affected by international commodity prices and particularly vulnerable to any weakening in global demand for these products. The market for securities in this region may also be directly influenced by the flow of international capital, and by the economic and market conditions of neighboring countries. Adverse economic conditions or developments in neighboring countries may increase investors' perception of the risk of investing in the region as a whole, which may adversely impact the market value of the securities issued by companies in the region.
Risk of Investing in Central and South America.  The economies of certain countries in which the Fund invests are affected by the economies of other Central and South American countries, some of which have experienced high interest rates, economic volatility, inflation, currency devaluations, government defaults, high unemployment rates and political instability which can adversely affect issuers in these countries. In addition, commodities (such as oil, gas and minerals) represent a significant percentage of the region's exports and many economies in this region are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in commodity prices. Adverse economic events in one country may have a significant adverse effect on some or all of the countries to which the Fund has exposure.
The governments of certain countries in Central and South America may exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector and may own or control many companies. Future government actions could have a significant effect on the economic conditions in such countries, which could have a negative impact on the securities in which the Fund invests. Diplomatic developments may also adversely affect investments in certain countries in Central and South America. Some countries in Central and South America may be affected by public corruption and crime, including organized crime.
Certain countries in Central and South America may be heavily dependent upon international trade and, consequently, have been and may continue to be negatively affected by trade barriers, exchange controls, managed adjustments in relative currency values and other protectionist measures imposed or negotiated by the countries with which they trade. These countries also have been and may continue to be adversely affected by economic conditions in the countries with which they trade. In addition, certain issuers located in countries in Central and South America in which the Fund invests may be the subject of sanctions (for example, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on certain Venezuelan individuals, corporate entities and the Venezuelan government) or have dealings with countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. An issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer that has dealings with such countries. The Fund may be adversely affected if it invests in such issuers.
Risk of Investing in China.  Investments in securities of companies domiciled in China involve a high degree of risk and special considerations not typically associated with investing in the U.S. securities markets. Such heightened risks include, among others, an authoritarian government, popular unrest associated with demands for improved political, economic and social conditions, the impact of regional conflict on the economy and hostile relations with neighboring countries.
Military conflicts, either in response to internal social unrest or conflicts with other countries, could disrupt economic development. The Chinese economy is vulnerable to the long-running disagreements and religious and nationalist disputes with Tibet and the Xinjiang region. Since 1997, there have been tensions between the Chinese government and many people in Hong Kong who perceive China as tightening control over Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous liberal political, economic, legal, and social framework. Recent protests and unrest have increased tensions even further. Due to the interconnected nature of the Hong Kong and Chinese economies, this instability in Hong Kong may cause uncertainty in the Hong Kong and Chinese markets. China has a complex territorial dispute regarding the sovereignty of Taiwan that has included threats of invasion; Taiwan-based companies and individuals are significant investors in China. Military conflict between China and Taiwan may adversely affect securities of Chinese issuers. In addition, China has strained international relations with Japan, India, Russia and other neighbors due to territorial disputes, historical animosities and other defense concerns. Additionally, China is alleged to have participated in state-sponsored cyberattacks against foreign companies and foreign governments. Actual and threatened responses to such activity, including purchasing restrictions, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Chinese government or Chinese companies, may impact China’s economy and Chinese issuers of securities in which the Fund invests.
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China could be affected by military events on the Korean peninsula or internal instability within North Korea. These situations may cause uncertainty in the Chinese market and may adversely affect performance of the Chinese economy.
The Chinese government has implemented significant economic reforms in order to liberalize trade policy, promote foreign investment in the economy, reduce government control of the economy and develop market mechanisms. However, there can be no assurance that these reforms will continue or that they will be effective. Despite reforms and privatizations of companies in certain sectors, the Chinese government still exercises substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector and may own or control many companies. The Chinese government continues to maintain a major role in economic policy making and investing in China involves risk of loss due to expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on foreign investments and on repatriation of capital invested. In addition, there is less regulation and monitoring of Chinese securities markets and the activities of investors, brokers and other participants than in the U.S.
Accordingly, issuers of securities in China, including Chinese companies that are listed on U.S. exchanges, are not subject to the same degree of regulation as are U.S. issuers with respect to such matters as insider trading rules, tender offer regulation, accounting standards or auditor oversight, stockholder proxy requirements and the requirements mandating timely and accurate disclosure of information. The Chinese government has taken positions that prevent the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) from inspecting the audit work and practices of accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong for compliance with U.S. law and professional standards. Audits performed by PCAOB-registered accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong may be less reliable than those performed by firms subject to PCAOB inspection. Accordingly, information about the Chinese securities in which the Fund invests may be less reliable or complete. Stock markets in China are in the process of change and further development. This may lead to trading volatility, difficulty in the settlement and recording of transactions and difficulty in interpreting and applying the relevant regulation.
There may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against Chinese companies and shareholders may have limited legal remedies. The Fund is not actively managed and does not select investments based on investor protection considerations.
While the Chinese economy has experienced past periods of rapid growth, there is no assurance that such growth rates will recur. China may experience substantial rates of inflation or economic recessions, causing a negative effect on the economy and securities market. China’s economy is heavily dependent on export growth. Reduction in spending on Chinese products and services, institution of additional tariffs or other trade barriers (including as a result of heightened trade tensions between China and the U.S. or in response to actual or alleged Chinese cyber activity) or a downturn in any of the economies of China’s key trading partners may have an adverse impact on the Chinese economy and the Chinese issuers of securities in which a Fund invests. For example, the U.S. has added certain foreign technology companies to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s “Entity List,” which is a list of companies believed to pose a national security risk to the U.S. Actions like these may have unanticipated and disruptive effects on the Chinese economy. Any such response that targets Chinese financial markets or securities exchanges could interfere with orderly trading, delay settlement or cause market disruptions.
The tax laws and regulations in the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) are subject to change, including the issuance of authoritative guidance or enforcement, possibly with retroactive effect. The interpretation, applicability and enforcement of such laws by PRC tax authorities are not as consistent and transparent as those of more developed nations, and may vary over time and from region to region. The application and enforcement of PRC tax rules could have a significant adverse effect on a Fund and its investors, particularly in relation to capital gains withholding tax imposed upon non-residents. In addition, the accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards and practices applicable to Chinese companies may be less rigorous, and may result in significant differences between financial statements prepared in accordance with the PRC accounting standards and practice and those prepared in accordance with international accounting standards.
Risk of Investing in the Chinese Equity Markets.  The Fund may invest in H-shares (securities of companies incorporated in the PRC that are denominated in Hong Kong dollars and listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (“SEHK”)), A-shares (securities of companies incorporated in the PRC that are denominated in renminbi and listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (“SSE”) and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (“SZSE”)) and/or B-shares (securities of companies incorporated in the PRC that are denominated in U.S. dollars (in the case of the SSE ) or Hong Kong dollars (in the case of the SZSE ) and listed on the SSE and the SZSE). The Fund may also invest in certain Hong Kong listed securities known as Red-Chips (securities issued by companies incorporated in certain foreign jurisdictions, which are controlled, directly or indirectly, by entities
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owned by the national government or local governments in the PRC and derive substantial revenues from or allocate substantial assets in the PRC) and P-Chips (securities issued by companies incorporated in certain foreign jurisdictions, which are controlled, directly or indirectly, by individuals in the PRC and derive substantial revenues from or allocate substantial assets in the PRC).
Securities listed on the SSE or the SZSE are divided into two classes: A-shares, which are mostly limited to domestic investors, and B-shares, which are allocated for both international and domestic investors. The A-shares market is generally subject to greater government restrictions, including trading suspensions, which may lead to increased liquidity risks. The B-shares market is generally smaller, less liquid and has a smaller issuer base than the A-shares market, which may lead to significant price volatility. B-shares, H-shares, P-Chips or Red-Chips of issuers that also issue A-shares may trade at significant discounts to their A-shares counterparts. The issuance of B-shares and H-shares by Chinese companies and the ability to obtain a “back-door listing” through Red-Chips or P-Chips is still regarded by the Chinese authorities as an experiment in economic reform. “Back-door listing” is a means by which a mainland Chinese company issues Red-Chips or P-Chips to obtain quick access to international listing and international capital. All of these share mechanisms are relatively untested and subject to political and economic policies in China. Market developments, adverse investor perceptions, regulatory and government intervention (including the possibility of widespread trading suspensions implemented by regulators) and other factors may make it difficult to acquire, dispose of or value Chinese securities, which would lead to adverse effects to the Fund.
Risk of Investing in A-shares through Stock Connect.
The Fund may invest in A-shares through the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect (“Shanghai Connect”) or the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect program (“Shenzhen Connect,” and together with Shanghai Connect, “Stock Connect”). Stock Connect is a securities trading and clearing program with an aim to achieve mutual stock market access between the PRC and Hong Kong. Stock Connect was developed by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, the SSE (in the case of Shanghai Connect) or the SZSE (in the case of Shenzhen Connect), and China Securities Depository and Clearing Corporation Limited (“CSDCC”). Under Stock Connect, the Fund’s trading of eligible A-shares listed on the SSE or the SZSE, as applicable, would be effectuated through its Hong Kong brokers. Investing in A-shares through Stock Connect is subject to trading, clearance, settlement and other procedures, which could pose risks to the Fund.
Although no individual investment quotas or licensing requirements apply to investors in Stock Connect, trading through Stock Connect is subject to a daily quota (the “Daily Quota”), which limits the maximum net purchases under Stock Connect each day. The Daily Quota does not belong to the Fund and is utilized on a first-come-first-serve basis. As such, buy orders for A-shares would be rejected once the Daily Quota is exceeded (although the Fund will be permitted to sell A-shares regardless of the Daily Quota balance). The Daily Quota may restrict the Fund’s ability to invest in A-shares through Stock Connect on a timely basis, which could affect the Fund’s ability to effectively pursue its investment strategy. The Daily Quota is also subject to change.
A-shares purchased through Stock Connect generally may only be sold or otherwise transferred through Stock Connect and in accordance with applicable rules. In order to comply with applicable local market rules and to facilitate orderly operations of the Fund, including the timely settlement of Stock Connect trades placed by or on behalf of the Fund, BFA utilizes an operating model that will only be used by iShares ETFs with investments in A-shares through Stock Connect. Such operating model may reduce the risks of trade failures; however, it will also allow Stock Connect trades to be settled without the prior verification by the Fund. Accordingly, this operating model may subject the Fund to additional risks, including an increased risk of inadvertently exceeding certain trade or other restrictions or limits placed on the Fund and/or its affiliates, and a heightened risk of erroneous trades, which may negatively impact the Fund.
While A-shares must be designated as eligible to be traded under Stock Connect (such eligible A-shares listed on the SSE, the “SSE Securities,” and such eligible A-shares listed on the SZSE, the “SZSE Securities”), those A-shares may also lose such designation, and if this occurs, such A-shares may be sold but could no longer be purchased through Stock Connect. With respect to sell orders under Stock Connect, the SEHK carries out pre-trade checks to ensure an investor has sufficient A-shares in its account before the market opens on the trading day. Accordingly, if there are insufficient A-shares in an investor’s account before the market opens on the trading day, the sell order will be rejected, which may adversely impact the Fund’s performance.
In addition, Stock Connect will only operate on days when both the Chinese and Hong Kong markets are open for trading and when banking services are available in both markets on the corresponding settlement days. Therefore, an investment in A-shares through Stock Connect may subject the Fund to the risk of price fluctuations on days when the Chinese markets are
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open, but Stock Connect is not trading. Each of the SEHK, SSE and SZSE reserves the right to suspend trading under Stock Connect under certain circumstances. Where such a suspension of trading is effected, the Fund’s ability to access A-shares through Stock Connect will be adversely affected. In addition, if one or both of the Chinese and Hong Kong markets are closed on a U.S. trading day, the Fund may not be able to acquire or dispose of A-shares through Stock Connect in a timely manner, which could adversely affect the Fund’s performance.
The Fund’s investments in A-shares though Stock Connect are held by its custodian in accounts in Central Clearing and Settlement System (“CCASS”) maintained by the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company Limited (“HKSCC”), which in turn holds the A-shares, as the nominee holder, through an omnibus securities account in its name registered with the CSDCC. The precise nature and rights of the Fund as the beneficial owner of the SSE Securities or SZSE Securities through HKSCC as nominee is not well defined under PRC law. There is a lack of a clear definition of, and distinction between, legal ownership and beneficial ownership under PRC law and there have been few cases involving a nominee account structure in the PRC courts. The exact nature and methods of enforcement of the rights and interests of the Fund under PRC law is also uncertain. In the unlikely event that HKSCC becomes subject to winding up proceedings in Hong Kong, there is a risk that the SSE Securities or SZSE Securities may not be regarded as held for the beneficial ownership of the Fund or as part of the general assets of HKSCC available for general distribution to its creditors.
Notwithstanding the fact that HKSCC does not claim proprietary interests in the SSE Securities or SZSE Securities held in its omnibus stock account in the CSDCC, the CSDCC as the share registrar for SSE- or SZSE-listed companies will still treat HKSCC as one of the shareholders when it handles corporate actions in respect of such SSE Securities or SZSE Securities. HKSCC monitors the corporate actions affecting SSE Securities and SZSE Securities and keeps participants of CCASS informed of all such corporate actions that require CCASS participants to take steps in order to participate in them. The Fund will therefore depend on HKSCC for both settlement and notification and implementation of corporate actions.
The HKSCC is responsible for the clearing, settlement and the provisions of depositary, nominee and other related services of the trades executed by Hong Kong market participants and investors. Accordingly, investors do not hold SSE Securities or SZSE Securities directly – they are held through their brokers’ or custodians’ accounts with CCASS. The HKSCC and the CSDCC establish clearing links and each has become a participant of the other to facilitate clearing and settlement of cross-border trades. Should CSDCC default and the CSDCC be declared as a defaulter, HKSCC’s liabilities in Stock Connect under its market contracts with clearing participants will be limited to assisting clearing participants in pursuing their claims against the CSDCC. In that event, the Fund may suffer delays in the recovery process or may not be able to fully recover its losses from the CSDCC.
Market participants are able to participate in Stock Connect subject to meeting certain information technology capability, risk management and other requirements as may be specified by the relevant exchange and/or clearing house. Further, the “connectivity” in Stock Connect requires the routing of orders across the borders of Hong Kong and the PRC. This requires the development of new information technology systems on the part of the SEHK and exchange participants. There is no assurance that these systems will function properly or will continue to be adapted to changes and developments in both markets. In the event that the relevant systems fail to function properly, trading in A-shares through Stock Connect could be disrupted, and the Fund’s ability to achieve its investment objective may be adversely affected.
The Shanghai Connect program, launched in November 2014, and the Shenzhen Connect program, launched in December 2016, are both in their initial stages and do not have an extensive operating history. Stock Connect is subject to regulations promulgated by regulatory authorities and implementation rules made by the stock exchanges in the PRC and Hong Kong. The current regulations are untested and there is no certainty as to how they will be applied or interpreted going forward. In addition, the current regulations are subject to change and there can be no assurance that Stock Connect will not be discontinued or abolished. New regulations may be issued from time to time by the regulators and stock exchanges in China and Hong Kong in connection with operations, legal enforcement and cross-border trades under Stock Connect. The Fund may be adversely affected as a result of such changes. Furthermore, the securities regimes and legal systems of China and Hong Kong differ significantly and issues may arise based on these differences. Further, different fees, costs and taxes are imposed on foreign investors acquiring A-shares through Stock Connect, and these fees, costs and taxes may be higher than comparable fees, costs and taxes imposed on owners of other Chinese securities providing similar investment exposure.
A-Share Market Suspension Risk.
A-shares may only be bought from, or sold to, the Fund at times when the relevant A-shares may be sold or purchased on the relevant Chinese stock exchange. The A-shares market can have a higher propensity for trading suspensions than many
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other global equity markets. Trading suspensions in certain stocks could lead to greater market execution risk, valuation risks, liquidity risks and costs for the Fund, as well as for Authorized Participants that create and redeem Creation Units of the Fund. The SSE and SZSE currently apply a daily limit, set at 10%, of the amount of fluctuation permitted in the prices of A-shares during a single trading day. The daily limit refers to price movements only and does not restrict trading within the relevant limit. There can be no assurance that a liquid market on an exchange will exist for any particular A-share or for any particular time. This could increase the Fund’s tracking error and/or cause the Fund to trade in the market at greater bid-ask spreads or greater premiums or discounts to the Fund’s NAV. Given that the A-share market is considered volatile and unstable (with the risk of widespread trading suspensions or government intervention), the creation and redemption of Creation Units may also be disrupted.
Risk of Investing in Eastern Europe.  Investing in the securities of issuers located or operating in Eastern Europe is highly speculative and involves risks not usually associated with investing in the more developed markets of Western Europe. Political and economic reforms are too recent to establish a definite trend away from centrally planned economies and state-owned industries. In the past, some Eastern European governments have expropriated substantial amounts of private property, and many claims of the property owners have never been fully settled.
Many Eastern European countries continue to move toward market economies at different paces with different characteristics. Most Eastern European securities markets suffer from thin trading activity, dubious investor protections, and often a dearth of reliable corporate information. Information and transaction costs, differential taxes, and sometimes political or transfer risk give a comparative advantage to the domestic investor rather than the foreign investor. In addition, these markets are particularly sensitive to social, political, economic, and currency events in Russia and may suffer heavy losses as a result of their trading and investment links to the Russian economy and currency. Russia also may attempt to assert its influence in the region through economic or even military measures, as it did with Georgia in the summer of 2008 and Ukraine beginning in 2014. Eastern European economies may also be particularly susceptible to changes in the international credit markets due to their reliance on bank related inflows of capital. The global economic crisis has restricted international credit supplies, and several Eastern European economies have faced significant credit and economic crises. Although some Eastern European economies are expanding again, major challenges are still present as a result of their continued dependence on the Western European zone for credit.
Risk of Investing in Europe.  Investing in European countries may expose the Fund to the economic and political risks associated with Europe in general and the specific European countries in which it invests. The economies and markets of European countries are often closely connected and interdependent, and events in one European country can have an adverse impact on other European countries. The Fund makes investments in securities of issuers that are domiciled in, have significant operations in, or that are listed on at least one securities exchange within member states of the European Union (the “EU”). A number of countries within the EU are also members of the Economic and Monetary Union (the “eurozone”) and have adopted the euro as their currency. Eurozone membership requires member states to comply with restrictions on inflation rates, deficits, interest rates, debt levels and fiscal and monetary controls, each of which may significantly affect every country in Europe. Changes in import or export tariffs, changes in governmental or EU regulations on trade, changes in the exchange rate of the euro and other currencies of certain EU countries which are not in the eurozone, the default or threat of default by an EU member state on its sovereign debt, and/or an economic recession in an EU member state may have a significant adverse effect on the economies of other EU member states and their trading partners. Although certain European countries are not in the eurozone, many of these countries are obliged to meet the criteria for joining the eurozone. Consequently, these countries must comply with many of the restrictions noted above. The European financial markets have experienced volatility and adverse trends due to concerns about economic downturns, rising government debt levels and the possible default of government debt in several European countries, including, but not limited to, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine. In order to prevent further economic deterioration, certain countries, without prior warning, can institute “capital controls.” Countries may use these controls to restrict volatile movements of capital entering and exiting their country. Such controls may negatively affect the Fund’s investments. A default or debt restructuring by any European country would adversely impact holders of that country’s debt and sellers of credit default swaps linked to that country’s creditworthiness, which may be located in countries other than those listed above. In addition, the credit ratings of certain European countries were downgraded in the past. These events have adversely affected the value and exchange rate of the euro and may continue to significantly affect the economies of every country in Europe, including countries that do not use the euro and non-EU member states. Responses to the financial problems by European governments, central banks and others, including austerity measures and reforms, may not produce the desired results, may result in social unrest and may limit future growth and economic recovery or have other unintended consequences. Further defaults or restructurings by governments and other entities of their debt could have additional
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adverse effects on economies, financial markets and asset valuations around the world. In addition, one or more countries may abandon the euro and/or withdraw from the EU. The impact of these actions, especially if they occur in a disorderly fashion, is not clear but could be significant and far-reaching and could adversely impact the value of the Fund’s investments in the region. The United Kingdom (the “U.K.”) left the EU (“Brexit”) on January 31, 2020, subject to a transitional period ending December 31, 2020. During the transitional period, although the U.K. is no longer a member state of the EU, it remains subject to EU law and regulations as if it were still a member state. The U.K. and the EU are to negotiate the terms of their future trading relationship during the transitional period. Accordingly, the terms of such trading relationship remain uncertain. The outcome of such negotiations may give rise to significant uncertainties and instability in the financial markets as the U.K. negotiates the terms of its future relationship with the EU. The Fund will face risks associated with the potential uncertainty and consequences leading up to and that may follow Brexit, including with respect to volatility in exchange rates and interest rates. Brexit could adversely affect European or worldwide political, regulatory, economic or market conditions and could contribute to instability in global political institutions, regulatory agencies and financial markets. Brexit has also led to legal uncertainty and could lead to politically divergent national laws and regulations as a new relationship between the U.K. and EU is defined and the U.K. determines which EU laws to replace or replicate. Any of these effects of Brexit could adversely affect any of the companies to which the Fund has exposure and any other assets in which the Fund invests. The political, economic and legal consequences of Brexit are not yet fully known. In the short term, financial markets may experience heightened volatility, particularly those in the U.K. and Europe, but possibly worldwide. The U.K. and Europe may be less stable than they have been in recent years, and investments in the U.K. and the EU may be difficult to value, or subject to greater or more frequent volatility. In the longer term, there is likely to be a period of significant political, regulatory and commercial uncertainty as the U.K. seeks to negotiate its long-term exit from the EU and the terms of its future trading relationships.
Certain European countries have also developed increasingly strained relationships with the U.S., and if these relations were to worsen, they could adversely affect European issuers that rely on the U.S. for trade. Secessionist movements, such as the Catalan movement in Spain and the independence movement in Scotland, as well as governmental or other responses to such movements, may also create instability and uncertainty in the region. In addition, the national politics of countries in the EU have been unpredictable and subject to influence by disruptive political groups and ideologies. The governments of EU countries may be subject to change and such countries may experience social and political unrest. Unanticipated or sudden political or social developments may result in sudden and significant investment losses. The occurrence of terrorist incidents throughout Europe also could impact financial markets. The impact of these events is not clear but could be significant and far-reaching and could adversely affect the value and liquidity of the Fund's investments.
Risk of Investing in Emerging Markets.   Investments in emerging market countries may be subject to greater risks than investments in developed countries. These risks include: (i) less social, political, and economic stability; (ii) greater illiquidity and price volatility due to smaller or limited local capital markets for such securities, or low or non-existent trading volumes; (iii) companies, custodians, clearinghouses, foreign exchanges and broker-dealers may be subject to less scrutiny and regulation by local authorities; (iv) local governments may decide to seize or confiscate securities held by foreign investors and/or local governments may decide to suspend or limit an issuer's ability to make dividend or interest payments; (v) local governments may limit or entirely restrict repatriation of invested capital, profits, and dividends; (vi) capital gains may be subject to local taxation, including on a retroactive basis; (vii) issuers facing restrictions on dollar or euro payments imposed by local governments may attempt to make dividend or interest payments to foreign investors in the local currency; (viii) there may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against companies and investors may experience difficulty in enforcing legal claims related to the securities and/or local judges may favor the interests of the issuer over those of foreign parties; (ix) bankruptcy judgments may only be permitted to be paid in the local currency; (x) limited public information regarding the issuer may result in greater difficulty in determining market valuations of the securities; and (xi) lack of financial reporting on a regular basis, substandard disclosure and differences in accounting standards may make it difficult to ascertain the financial health of an issuer. The Fund is not actively managed and does not select investments based on investor protection considerations.
Emerging market securities markets are typically marked by a high concentration of market capitalization and trading volume in a small number of issuers representing a limited number of industries, as well as a high concentration of ownership of such securities by a limited number of investors. In addition, brokerage and other costs associated with transactions in emerging market securities can be higher, sometimes significantly, than similar costs incurred in securities markets in developed countries. Although some emerging markets have become more established and tend to issue securities of higher credit quality, the markets for securities in other emerging market countries are in the earliest stages of their development, and these countries issue securities across the credit spectrum. Even the markets for relatively widely traded securities in
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emerging market countries may not be able to absorb, without price disruptions, a significant increase in trading volume or trades of a size customarily undertaken by institutional investors in the securities markets of developed countries. The limited size of many of these securities markets can cause prices to be erratic for reasons apart from factors that affect the soundness and competitiveness of the securities issuers. For example, prices may be unduly influenced by traders who control large positions in these markets. Additionally, market making and arbitrage activities are generally less extensive in such markets, which may contribute to increased volatility and reduced liquidity of such markets. The limited liquidity of emerging market country securities may also affect the Fund's ability to accurately value its portfolio securities or to acquire or dispose of securities at the price and time it wishes to do so or in order to meet redemption requests.
Many emerging market countries suffer from uncertainty and corruption in their legal frameworks. Legislation may be difficult to interpret and laws may be too new to provide any precedential value. Laws regarding foreign investment and private property may be weak or non-existent. Sudden changes in governments may result in policies which are less favorable to investors such as policies designed to expropriate or nationalize “sovereign” assets. Certain emerging market countries in the past have expropriated large amounts of private property, in many cases with little or no compensation, and there can be no assurance that such expropriation will not occur in the future.
Investment in the securities markets of certain emerging market countries is restricted or controlled to varying degrees. These restrictions may limit the Fund's investment in certain emerging market countries and may increase the expenses of the Fund. Certain emerging market countries require governmental approval prior to investments by foreign persons or limit investment by foreign persons to only a specified percentage of an issuer's outstanding securities or a specific class of securities which may have less advantageous terms (including price) than securities of the company available for purchase by nationals.
Many emerging market countries lack the social, political, and economic stability characteristic of the U.S. Political instability among emerging market countries can be common and may be caused by an uneven distribution of wealth, social unrest, labor strikes, civil wars, and religious oppression. Economic instability in emerging market countries may take the form of: (i) high interest rates; (ii) high levels of inflation, including hyperinflation; (iii) high levels of unemployment or underemployment; (iv) changes in government economic and tax policies, including confiscatory taxation; and (v) imposition of trade barriers.
The Fund's income and, in some cases, capital gains from foreign securities will be subject to applicable taxation in certain of the emerging market countries in which it invests, and treaties between the U.S. and such countries may not be available in some cases to reduce the otherwise applicable tax rates.
Emerging markets also have different clearance and settlement procedures, and in certain of these emerging markets there have been times when settlements have been unable to keep pace with the volume of securities transactions, making it difficult to conduct such transactions.
In the past, certain governments in emerging market countries have become overly reliant on the international capital markets and other forms of foreign credit to finance large public spending programs, which in the past have caused huge budget deficits. Often, interest payments have become too overwhelming for a government to meet, representing a large percentage of total GDP. These foreign obligations have become the subject of political debate and served as fuel for political parties of the opposition, which pressure the government not to make payments to foreign creditors, but instead to use these funds for, among other things, social programs. Either due to an inability to pay or submission to political pressure, foreign governments have been forced to seek a restructuring of their loan and/or bond obligations, have declared a temporary suspension of interest payments or have defaulted. These events have adversely affected the values of securities issued by foreign governments and corporations domiciled in those countries and have negatively affected not only their cost of borrowing, but their ability to borrow in the future as well.
Risk of Investing in the Middle East.  Many Middle Eastern countries have little or no democratic tradition, and the political and legal systems in such countries may have an adverse impact on the Fund. Many economies in the Middle East are highly reliant on income from the sale of oil and gas or trade with countries involved in the sale of oil and gas, and their economies are therefore vulnerable to changes in the market for oil and gas and foreign currency values. As global demand for oil and gas fluctuates, many Middle Eastern economies may be significantly impacted.
In addition, many Middle Eastern governments have exercised and continue to exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. In certain cases, a Middle Eastern country’s government may own or control many companies,
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including some of the largest companies in the country. Accordingly, governmental actions in the future could have a significant effect on economic conditions in Middle Eastern countries. This could affect private sector companies and the Fund, as well as the value of securities in the Fund's portfolio.
Certain Middle Eastern markets are in the earliest stages of development. As a result, there may be a high concentration of market capitalization and trading volume in a small number of issuers representing a limited number of industries, as well as a high concentration of investors and financial intermediaries. Brokers in Middle Eastern countries typically are fewer in number and less capitalized than brokers in the U.S.
The legal systems in certain Middle Eastern countries also may have an adverse impact on the Fund. For example, the potential liability of a shareholder in a U.S. corporation with respect to acts of the corporation generally is limited to the amount of the shareholder’s investment. However, the notion of limited liability is less clear in certain Middle Eastern countries. The Fund therefore may be liable in certain Middle Eastern countries for the acts of a corporation in which it invests for an amount greater than its actual investment in that corporation. Similarly, the rights of investors in Middle Eastern issuers may be more limited than those of shareholders of a U.S. corporation. It may be difficult or impossible to obtain or enforce a legal judgment in a Middle Eastern country. Some Middle Eastern countries prohibit or impose substantial restrictions on investments in their capital markets, particularly their equity markets, by foreign entities such as the Fund. For example, certain countries may require governmental approval prior to investment by foreign persons or limit the amount of investment by foreign persons in a particular issuer. Certain Middle Eastern countries may also limit investment by foreign persons to only a specific class of securities of an issuer that may have less advantageous terms (including price) than securities of the issuer available for purchase by nationals of the relevant Middle Eastern country.
The manner in which foreign investors may invest in companies in certain Middle Eastern countries, as well as limitations on those investments, may have an adverse impact on the operations of the Fund. For example, in certain of these countries, the Fund may be required to invest initially through a local broker or other entity and then have the shares that were purchased re-registered in the name of the Fund. Re-registration in some instances may not be possible on a timely basis. This may result in a delay during which the Fund may be denied certain of its rights as an investor, including rights as to dividends or to be made aware of certain corporate actions. There also may be instances where the Fund places a purchase order but is subsequently informed, at the time of re-registration, that the permissible allocation of the investment to foreign investors has already been filled and, consequently, the Fund may not be able to invest in the relevant company.
Substantial limitations may exist in certain Middle Eastern countries with respect to the Fund’s ability to repatriate investment income or capital gains. The Fund could be adversely affected by delays in, or a refusal to grant, any required governmental approval for repatriation of capital, as well as by the application to the Fund of any restrictions on investment.
Certain Middle Eastern countries may be heavily dependent upon international trade and, consequently, have been and may continue to be negatively affected by trade barriers, exchange controls, managed adjustments in relative currency values and other protectionist measures imposed or negotiated by the countries with which they trade. These countries also have been and may continue to be adversely impacted by economic conditions in the countries with which they trade. In addition, certain issuers located in Middle Eastern countries in which the Fund invests may operate in, or have dealings with, countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations, and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, an issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer which operates in, or has dealings with, such countries. The Fund, as an investor in such issuers, will be indirectly subject to those risks.
Certain Middle Eastern countries have strained relations with other Middle Eastern countries due to territorial disputes, historical animosities, international alliances, defense concerns or other reasons, which may adversely affect the economies of these Middle Eastern countries. Certain Middle Eastern countries experience significant unemployment, as well as widespread underemployment. There has also been a recent increase in recruitment efforts and an aggressive push for territorial control by terrorist groups in the region, which has led to an outbreak of warfare and hostilities. Warfare in Syria has spread to surrounding areas, including many portions of Iraq and Turkey. Such hostilities may continue into the future or may escalate at any time due to ethnic, racial, political, religious or ideological tensions between groups in the region or foreign intervention or lack of intervention, among other factors.
Risk of Investing in North America.  A decrease in imports or exports, changes in trade regulations or an economic recession in any North American country can have a significant economic effect on the entire North American region and on some or all of the North American countries in which the Fund invests.
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The U.S. is Canada's and Mexico's largest trading and investment partner. The Canadian and Mexican economies are significantly affected by developments in the U.S. economy. Since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) in 1994 among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, total merchandise trade among the three countries has increased. However, political developments including the implementation of tariffs by the U.S., and the renegotiation of NAFTA in the form of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”), which will replace NAFTA on or around July 1, 2020, could negatively affect North America’s economic outlook and, as a result, the value of securities held by the Fund. Policy and legislative changes in one country may have a significant effect on North American markets generally, as well as on the value of certain securities held by the Fund.
Risk of Investing in Russia.  Investing in the Russian securities market involves a high degree of risk and special considerations not typically associated with investing in the U.S. securities market, and should be considered highly speculative. Risks include: the absence of developed legal structures governing private and foreign investments and private property; the possibility of the loss of all or a substantial portion of the Fund’s assets invested in Russia as a result of expropriation; certain national policies which may restrict the Fund’s investment opportunities, including, without limitation, restrictions on investing in issuers or industries deemed sensitive to relevant national interests; and potentially greater price volatility in, significantly smaller capitalization of, and relative illiquidity of, the Russian market. There can also be no assurance that the Fund’s investments in the Russian securities market would not be expropriated, nationalized or otherwise confiscated. In the event of the settlement of any such claims or such expropriation, nationalization or other confiscation, the Fund could lose its entire investment. In addition, it may be difficult and more costly to obtain and enforce a judgment in the Russian court system.
Russia may also be subject to a greater degree of economic, political and social instability than is the case in other developed countries. Such instability may result from, among other things, the following: (i) an authoritarian government or military involvement in political and economic decision-making, including changes in government through extra-constitutional means; (ii) popular unrest associated with demands for improved political, economic and social conditions; (iii) internal insurgencies; (iv) hostile relations with neighboring countries; and (v) ethnic, religious and racial disaffection.
The Russian economy is heavily dependent upon the export of a range of commodities including most industrial metals, forestry products and oil and gas. Accordingly, it is strongly affected by international commodity prices and is particularly vulnerable to any weakening in global demand for these products. Any acts of terrorism or armed conflicts in Russia or internationally could have an adverse effect on the financial and commodities markets and the global economy. As Russia produces and exports large amounts of crude oil and gas, any acts of terrorism or armed conflict causing disruptions of Russian oil and gas exports could negatively affect the Russian economy and, thus, adversely affect the financial condition, results of operations or prospects of related companies. Current and future economic sanctions may also adversely affect the Russian oil, banking, mining, metals, rail, pipeline and gas sectors, among other sectors.
The Russian government may exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector and may own or control many companies. Future government actions could have a significant effect on the economic conditions in Russia, which could have a negative impact on private sector companies. There is also the possibility of diplomatic developments that could adversely affect investments in Russia. In recent years, the Russian government has begun to take bolder steps to re-assert its regional geopolitical influence (including military steps). Additionally, Russia is alleged to have participated in state-sponsored cyberattacks against foreign companies and foreign governments. Such steps may increase tensions between Russia and its neighbors and Western countries and may negatively affect economic growth. Actual and threatened responses by other nation-states to Russia’s alleged cyber activity may have an adverse impact on the Russian economy and the Russian issuers of securities in which the Fund invests. For example, the U.S. has added certain foreign technology companies to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s “Entity List,” which is a list of companies believed to pose a national security risk to the U.S. Actions like these may have unanticipated and disruptive effects on the Russian economy.
Russia Sanctions. The U.S. and the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (“EU”), along with the regulatory bodies of a number of countries including Japan, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and Canada (collectively, “Sanctioning Bodies”), have imposed economic sanctions, which consist of prohibiting certain securities trades, prohibiting certain private transactions in the energy sector, asset freezes and prohibition of all business, with certain Russian individuals and Russian corporate entities. The Sanctioning Bodies could also institute broader sanctions on Russia. These sanctions, or even the threat of further sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Russian securities, a weakening of the ruble or other adverse consequences to the Russian economy. These sanctions could also result in the immediate freeze of Russian
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securities and/or funds invested in prohibited assets, impairing the ability of the Fund to buy, sell, receive or deliver those securities and/or assets.
The sanctions against certain Russian issuers include prohibitions on transacting in or dealing in issuances of debt or equity of such issuers. Compliance with each of these sanctions may impair the ability of the Fund to buy, sell, hold, receive or deliver the affected securities or other securities of such issuers. If it becomes impracticable or unlawful for the Fund to hold securities subject to, or otherwise affected by, sanctions (collectively, “affected securities”), or if deemed appropriate by BFA, the Fund may prohibit in-kind deposits of the affected securities in connection with creation transactions and instead require a cash deposit, which may also increase the Fund's transaction costs. The Fund may also be legally required to freeze assets in a blocked account.
Also, if an affected security is included in the Fund's Underlying Index, the Fund may, where practicable, seek to eliminate its holdings of the affected security by employing or augmenting its representative sampling strategy to seek to track the investment results of its Underlying Index. The use of (or increased use of) a representative sampling strategy may increase the Fund’s tracking error risk. If the affected securities constitute a significant percentage of the Underlying Index, the Fund may not be able to effectively implement a representative sampling strategy, which may result in significant tracking error between the Fund’s performance and the performance of its Underlying Index.
Current or future sanctions may result in Russia taking counter measures or retaliatory actions, which may further impair the value and liquidity of Russian securities. These retaliatory measures may include the immediate freeze of Russian assets held by the Fund. In the event of such a freeze of any Fund assets, including depositary receipts, the Fund may need to liquidate non-restricted assets in order to satisfy any Fund redemption orders. The liquidation of Fund assets during this time may also result in the Fund receiving substantially lower prices for its securities.
These sanctions may also lead to changes in the Fund’s Underlying Index. The Fund’s Index Provider may remove securities from the Underlying Index or implement caps on the securities of certain issuers that have been subject to recent economic sanctions. In such an event, it is expected that the Fund will rebalance its portfolio to bring it in line with the Underlying Index as a result of any such changes, which may result in transaction costs and increased tracking error. These sanctions, the volatility that may result in the trading markets for Russian securities and the possibility that Russia may impose investment or currency controls on investors may cause the Fund to invest in, or increase the Fund’s investments in, depositary receipts that represent the securities of the Underlying Index. These investments may result in increased transaction costs and increased tracking error.
Risk of Investing in Saudi Arabia.  The Fund’s Underlying Index includes Saudi Arabian equity securities. The ability of foreign investors (such as the Fund) to invest in Saudi Arabian issuers is relatively untested. Such ability could be restricted or revoked by the Saudi Arabian government at any time, and unforeseen risks could materialize due to foreign ownership in such securities. In addition, the Capital Market Authority (“CMA”) places investment limitations on the ownership of Saudi Arabian issuers by foreign investors, including a limitation on the Fund’s ownership of any single issuer listed on the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange, which may prevent the Fund from investing in accordance with its strategy and contribute to tracking error against the Underlying Index. These restrictions may be changed or new restrictions, such as licensing requirements, special approvals or additional foreign taxes, may be instituted at any time. The Fund may not be able to obtain or maintain any such licenses or approvals and may not be able to buy and sell securities at full value. Major disruptions or regulatory changes could occur in the Saudi Arabian market, any of which could negatively impact the Fund. These risks may be exacerbated, compared to more developed markets, given the limited history of foreign investment in the Saudi Arabian market. Investments in Saudi Arabia may also be subject to loss due to expropriation or nationalization of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on additional foreign investments and repatriation of capital. Such heightened risks may include, among others, restrictions on and government intervention in international trade, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision making, armed conflict, crime and instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socioeconomic unrest. Saudi Arabia has privatized, or has begun the process of privatizing, certain entities and industries. Newly privatized companies may face strong competition from government-sponsored competitors that have not been privatized. In some instances, investors in newly privatized entities have suffered losses due to the inability of the newly privatized entities to adjust quickly to a competitive environment or changing regulatory and legal standards or, in some cases, due to re-nationalization of such privatized entities. There is no assurance that similar losses will not recur. Further, under income tax laws imposed by the General Authority of Zakat and Tax, dividends paid by a Saudi Arabian company to foreign stockholders are generally subject to a 5% withholding tax (different tax rates may apply pursuant to an applicable treaty). Saudi Arabia is highly reliant on income from the sale of petroleum and
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trade with other countries involved in the sale of petroleum, and its economy is therefore vulnerable to changes in foreign currency values and the market for petroleum, as well as acts targeting petroleum production or processing facilities in Saudi Arabia. As global demand for petroleum fluctuates, Saudi Arabia may be significantly impacted. In the recent past, the Saudi Arabian government has explored privatization and diversification of the economy in the wake of a diminished petroleum market.
Like most Middle Eastern governments, the government of Saudi Arabia exercises substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. Although liberalization in the wider economy is underway, in many areas it has lagged significantly: restrictions on foreign ownership persists, and the government has an ownership stake in many key industries. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia has historically experienced strained relations with economic partners worldwide, including other countries in the Middle East, due to geopolitical events. Incidents involving a Middle Eastern country’s or the region’s security, including terrorism, may cause uncertainty in their markets and may adversely affect its economy and the Fund’s investments.
Governmental actions in the future could have a significant effect on economic conditions in Saudi Arabia, which could affect private sector companies and the Fund, as well as the value of securities in the Fund’s portfolio. Any economic sanctions on Saudi Arabian individuals or Saudi Arabian corporate entities, or even the threat of sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Saudi Arabian securities, a weakening of the Saudi riyal or other adverse consequences to the Saudi Arabian economy. Any sanctions could also result in the immediate freeze of Saudi Arabian securities and/or funds investing in prohibited assets, impairing the ability of the Fund to buy, sell, receive or deliver those securities and/or assets. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s economy relies heavily on cheap, foreign labor, and changes in the availability of this labor supply could have an adverse effect on the economy.
The securities markets in Saudi Arabia may not be as developed as those in other countries. As a result, securities markets in Saudi Arabia are subject to greater risks associated with market volatility, lower market capitalization, lower trading volume, illiquidity, inflation, greater price fluctuations, uncertainty regarding the existence of trading markets, governmental control and heavy regulation of labor and industry. Shares of certain Saudi Arabian companies tend to trade less frequently than those of companies on exchanges in more developed markets. Such infrequent trading may adversely affect the pricing of these securities and the Fund’s ability to sell these securities in the future.
Although the political situation in Saudi Arabia is largely stable, Saudi Arabia has historically experienced political instability, and there remains the possibility that the stability will not hold in the future or that instability in the larger Middle East region could adversely impact the economy of Saudi Arabia. Instability may be caused by military developments, government interventions in the marketplace, terrorism, extremist attitudes, attempted social or political reforms, religious differences, or other factors. Additionally, anti-Western views held by certain groups in the Middle East may influence government policies regarding foreign investment. Further developments in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries may affect these attitudes and policies. The U.S. is a significant trading partner of, or foreign investor in, Saudi Arabia. As a result, economic conditions of Saudi Arabia may be particularly affected by changes in the U.S. economy. A decrease in U.S. imports or exports, new trade and financial regulations or tariffs, changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate or an economic slowdown in the U.S. may have a material adverse effect on the economic conditions of Saudi Arabia and, as a result, securities to which the Fund has exposure. Political instability in North Africa and the larger Middle East region has caused significant disruptions to many industries. Continued political and social unrest in these areas may negatively affect the value of securities in the Fund’s portfolio.
Certain issuers located in Saudi Arabia may operate in, or have dealings with, countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, an issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer which operates in, or has dealings with, such countries. The Fund, as an investor in such issuers, will be indirectly subject to those risks.
U.S. Economic Trading Partners Risk.  The U.S. is a significant, and in some cases the most significant, trading partner of, or foreign investor in, the country or countries in which the Fund invests. As a result, economic conditions of such countries may be particularly affected by changes in the U.S. economy. The U.S. economy has recently experienced very difficult conditions and increased volatility, as well as significant adverse trends. While government intervention and recent legislation
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has been enacted to improve the U.S. economy, the recovery has been fragile and modest. A decrease in U.S. imports or exports, new trade and financial regulations or tariffs, changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate or an economic slowdown in the U.S. may have a material adverse effect on a country’s economic conditions and, as a result, securities to which the Fund has exposure.
The U.S. has developed increasingly strained relations with a number of foreign countries, including traditional allies, such as certain European countries, and historical adversaries, such as North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. If these relations were to worsen, it could adversely affect U.S. issuers as well as non-U.S. issuers that rely on the U.S. for trade. The U.S. has also experienced increased internal unrest and discord. If this trend were to continue, it may have an adverse impact on the U.S. economy and many of the issuers in which the Fund invests.
Risk of Investing in the Communication Services Sector.  The communication services sector consists of both companies in the telecommunication services industry as well as those in the media and entertainment industry. Examples of companies in the telecommunication services industry group include providers of fiber-optic, fixed-line, cellular and wireless telecommunications networks. Companies in the media and entertainment industry group encompass a variety of services and products including television broadcasting, gaming products, social media, networking platforms, online classifieds, online review websites, and Internet search engines. Companies in the communication services sector may be affected by industry competition, substantial capital requirements, government regulation, and obsolescence of communications products and services due to technological advancement. Fluctuating domestic and international demand, shifting demographics and often unpredictable changes in consumer tastes can drastically affect a communication services company's profitability. In addition, while all companies may be susceptible to network security breaches, certain companies in the communication services sector may be particular targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or consumer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses.
The communication services sector of a country’s economy is often subject to extensive government regulation. The costs of complying with governmental regulations, delays or failure to receive required regulatory approvals, or the enactment of new regulatory requirements may negatively affect the business of communications companies. Government actions around the world, specifically in the area of pre-marketing clearance of products and prices, can be arbitrary and unpredictable. The communications services industry can also be significantly affected by intense competition for market share, including competition with alternative technologies such as wireless communications, product compatibility and standardization, consumer preferences, rapid product obsolescence, research and development of new products, lack of standardization or compatibility with existing technologies, and a dependency on patent and copyright protections. Companies in the communication services sector may encounter distressed cash flows due to the need to commit substantial capital to meet increasing competition, particularly in developing new products and services using new technology. Technological innovations may make the products and services of certain communications companies obsolete.
Telecommunications providers with exposure to the U.S. are generally required to obtain franchises or licenses in order to provide services in a given location. Licensing and franchise rights in the telecommunications sector are limited, which may provide an advantage to certain participants. Limited availability of such rights, high barriers to market entry and regulatory oversight, among other factors, have led to consolidation of companies within the sector, which could lead to further regulation or other negative effects in the future. Telecommunication providers investing in non-U.S. countries may be subject to similar risks. Additional risks include those related to competitive challenges in the U.S. from non-U.S. competitors engaged in strategic joint ventures with U.S. companies and in non-U.S. markets from both U.S. and non-U.S. competitors.
Companies in the media and entertainment industries can be significantly affected by several factors, including competition, particularly in formulation of products and services using new technologies, cyclicality of revenues and earnings, a potential decrease in the discretionary income of targeted individuals, changing consumer tastes and interests, and the potential increase in government regulation. Companies in the media and entertainment industries may become obsolete quickly. Advertising spending can be an important revenue source for media and entertainment companies. During economic downturns advertising spending typically decreases and, as a result, media and entertainment companies tend to generate less revenue.
Risk of Investing in the Consumer Discretionary Sector.  Companies engaged in the design, production or distribution of products or services for the consumer discretionary sector (including, without limitation, television and radio broadcasting, manufacturing, publishing, recording and musical instruments, motion pictures, photography, amusement and theme parks,
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gaming casinos, sporting goods and sports arenas, camping and recreational equipment, toys and games, apparel, travel-related services, automobiles, hotels and motels, and fast food and other restaurants) are subject to the risk that their products or services may become obsolete quickly. The success of these companies can depend heavily on disposable household income and consumer spending. During periods of an expanding economy, the consumer discretionary sector may outperform the consumer staples sector, but may underperform when economic conditions worsen. Moreover, the consumer discretionary sector can be significantly affected by several factors, including, without limitation, the performance of domestic and international economies, exchange rates, changing consumer preferences, demographics, marketing campaigns, cyclical revenue generation, consumer confidence, commodity price volatility, labor relations, interest rates, import and export controls, intense competition, technological developments and government regulation.
Risk of Investing in the Consumer Staples Sector.  Companies in the consumer staples sector may be adversely affected by changes in the global economy, consumer spending, competition, demographics and consumer preferences, and production spending. Companies in the consumer staples sector may also be affected by changes in global economic, environmental and political events, economic conditions, the depletion of resources, and government regulation. For instance, government regulations may affect the permissibility of using various food additives and production methods of companies that make food products, which could affect company profitability. Companies in the consumer staples sector also may be subject to risks pertaining to the supply of, demand for and prices of raw materials. The prices of raw materials fluctuate in response to a number of factors, including, without limitation, changes in government agricultural support programs, exchange rates, import and export controls, changes in international agricultural and trading policies, and seasonal and weather conditions. Companies in the consumer staples sector may be subject to severe competition, which may also have an adverse impact on their profitability.
Risk of Investing in the Financials Sector.  Companies in the financials sector include regional and money center banks, securities brokerage firms, asset management companies, savings banks and thrift institutions, specialty finance companies (e.g., credit card, mortgage providers), insurance and insurance brokerage firms, consumer finance firms, financial conglomerates and foreign banking and financial companies.
Most financial companies are subject to extensive governmental regulation, which limits their activities and may affect their ability to earn a profit from a given line of business. Government regulation may change frequently and may have significant adverse consequences for companies in the financials sector, including effects not intended by the regulation. Direct governmental intervention in the operations of financial companies and financial markets may materially and adversely affect the companies in which the Fund invests, including legislation in many countries that may increase government regulation, repatriation and other intervention. The impact of governmental intervention and legislative changes on any individual financial company or on the financials sector as a whole cannot be predicted. The valuation of financial companies has been and continues to be subject to unprecedented volatility and may be influenced by unpredictable factors, including interest rate risk and sovereign debt default. Certain financial businesses are subject to intense competitive pressures, including market share and price competition. Financial companies in foreign countries are subject to market specific and general regulatory and interest rate concerns. In particular, government regulation in certain foreign countries may include taxes and controls on interest rates, credit availability, minimum capital requirements, bans on short sales, limits on prices and restrictions on currency transfers. In addition, companies in the financials sector may be the targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or customer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses.
The profitability of banks, savings and loan associations and financial companies is largely dependent on the availability and cost of capital funds and can fluctuate significantly when interest rates change; for instance, when interest rates go up, the value of securities issued by many types of companies in the financials sector generally goes down. In other words, financial companies may be adversely affected in certain market cycles, including, without limitation, during periods of rising interest rates, which may restrict the availability and increase the cost of capital, and during periods of declining economic conditions, which may cause, among other things, credit losses due to financial difficulties of borrowers.
In addition, general economic conditions are important to the operations of these companies, and financial difficulties of borrowers may have an adverse effect on the profitability of financial companies. Financial companies can be highly dependent upon access to capital markets, and any impediments to such access, such as adverse overall economic conditions or a negative perception in the capital markets of a financial company’s financial condition or prospects, could adversely affect its business. Deterioration of credit markets can have an adverse impact on a broad range of financial markets, causing certain financial companies to incur large losses. In these conditions, companies in the financials sector
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may experience significant declines in the valuation of their assets, take actions to raise capital and even cease operations. Some financial companies may also be required to accept or borrow significant amounts of capital from government sources and may face future government-imposed restrictions on their businesses or increased government intervention. In addition, there is no guarantee that governments will provide any such relief in the future. These actions may cause the securities of many companies in the financials sector to decline in value.
Risk of Investing in the Healthcare Sector.  Companies in the healthcare sector are often issuers whose profitability may be affected by extensive government regulation, restrictions on government reimbursement for medical expenses, rising or falling costs of medical products and services, pricing pressure, an increased emphasis on outpatient services, a limited number of products, industry innovation, changes in technologies and other market developments. Many healthcare companies are heavily dependent on patent protection and the actual or perceived safety and efficiency of their products.
Patents have a limited duration, and, upon expiration, other companies may market substantially similar “generic” products that are typically sold at a lower price than the patented product, which can cause the original developer of the product to lose market share and/or reduce the price charged for the product, resulting in lower profits for the original developer. As a result, the expiration of patents may adversely affect the profitability of these companies.
In addition, because the products and services of many companies in the healthcare sector affect the health and well-being of many individuals, these companies are especially susceptible to extensive litigation based on product liability and similar claims. Healthcare companies are subject to competitive forces that may make it difficult to raise prices and, in fact, may result in price discounting. Many new products in the healthcare sector may be subject to regulatory approvals. The process of obtaining such approvals may be long and costly, which can result in increased development costs, delayed cost recovery and loss of competitive advantage to the extent that rival companies have developed competing products or procedures, adversely affecting the company’s revenues and profitability. In other words, delays in the regulatory approval process may diminish the opportunity for a company to profit from a new product or to bring a new product to market, which could have a material adverse effect on a company’s business. Healthcare companies may also be strongly affected by scientific biotechnology or technological developments, and their products may quickly become obsolete. Also, many healthcare companies offer products and services that are subject to governmental regulation and may be adversely affected by changes in governmental policies or laws. Changes in governmental policies or laws may span a wide range of topics, including cost control, national health insurance, incentives for compensation in the provision of healthcare services, tax incentives and penalties related to healthcare insurance premiums, and promotion of prepaid healthcare plans.
Additionally, the expansion of facilities by healthcare-related providers may be subject to “determinations of need” by certain government authorities. This process not only generally increases the time and costs involved in these expansions, but also makes expansion plans uncertain, limiting the revenue and profitability growth potential of healthcare-related facilities operators and negatively affecting the prices of their securities. Moreover, in recent years, both local and national governmental budgets have come under pressure to reduce spending and control healthcare costs, which could both adversely affect regulatory processes and public funding available for healthcare products, services and facilities.
Risk of Investing in the Industrials Sector.  The value of securities issued by companies in the industrials sector may be adversely affected by supply of and demand for both their specific products or services and for industrials sector products in general. The products of manufacturing companies may face obsolescence due to rapid technological developments and frequent new product introduction. Government regulations, trade disputes, world events and economic conditions may affect the performance of companies in the industrials sector. The industrials sector may also be adversely affected by changes or trends in commodity prices, which may be influenced by unpredictable factors. For example, commodity price declines and unit volume reductions resulting from an over-supply of materials used in the industrials sector can adversely affect the sector. Furthermore, while the Fund seeks to invest in companies with positive or favorable environmental and social characteristics, companies in the industrials sector may be subject to liability for environmental damage, product liability claims, depletion of resources, and mandated expenditures for safety and pollution control.
Risk of Investing in the Information Technology Sector.  Information technology companies face intense competition, both domestically and internationally, which may have an adverse effect on profit margins. Like other technology companies, information technology companies may have limited product lines, markets, financial resources or personnel. The products of information technology companies may face product obsolescence due to rapid technological developments and frequent new product introduction, unpredictable changes in growth rates and competition for the services of qualified personnel. Technology companies and companies that rely heavily on technology, especially those of smaller, less-seasoned companies,
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tend to be more volatile than the overall market. Companies in the information technology sector are heavily dependent on patent and intellectual property rights. The loss or impairment of these rights may adversely affect the profitability of these companies. Information technology companies are facing increased government and regulatory scrutiny and may be subject to adverse government or regulatory action. Finally, while all companies may be susceptible to network security breaches, certain companies in the information technology sector may be particular targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or consumer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses. These risks are heightened for information technology companies in foreign markets.
Risk of Investing in the Materials Sector.  Companies in the materials sector may be adversely affected by commodity price volatility, exchange rates, social and political unrest, import controls, increased competition, depletion of resources, technical progress, labor relations and government regulations, and mandated expenditures for safety and pollution control, among other factors. Such risks may adversely affect the issuers to which the Fund has exposure. While the Fund seeks to invest in companies with positive or favorable environmental and social characteristics, companies in the materials sector are also at risk of liability for environmental damage and product liability claims. Production of materials may exceed demand as a result of market imbalances or economic downturns, leading to poor investment returns. These risks are heightened for companies in the materials sector located in foreign markets.
Risk of Investing in the Real Estate Industry.  Companies in the real estate industry include companies that invest in real estate, such as real estate investment trusts (“REITs”), real estate holding and operating companies or real estate development companies (collectively, “Real Estate Companies”). Investing in Real Estate Companies exposes investors to the risks of owning real estate directly, as well as to risks that relate specifically to the way in which Real Estate Companies are organized and operated. The real estate industry is highly sensitive to general and local economic conditions and developments, and characterized by intense competition and periodic overbuilding. Investing in Real Estate Companies involves various risks. Some risks that are specific to Real Estate Companies are discussed in greater detail below.
Interest Rate Risk. Rising interest rates could result in higher costs of capital for Real Estate Companies, which could negatively impact a Real Estate Company’s ability to meet its payment obligations. Declining interest rates could result in increased prepayment on loans and require redeployment of capital in less desirable investments.
Leverage Risk. Real Estate Companies may use leverage (and some may be highly leveraged), which increases investment risk and could adversely affect a Real Estate Company’s operations and market value in periods of rising interest rates. Real Estate Companies are also exposed to the risks normally associated with debt financing. Financial covenants related to a Real Estate Company’s leverage may affect the ability of the Real Estate Company to operate effectively. In addition, real property may be subject to the quality of credit extended and defaults by borrowers and tenants. If the properties do not generate sufficient income to meet operating expenses, including, where applicable, debt service, ground lease payments, tenant improvements, third-party leasing commissions and other capital expenditures, the income and ability of a Real Estate Company to make payments of any interest and principal on its debt securities will be adversely affected.
Loan Foreclosure Risk. Real Estate Companies may foreclose on loans that the Real Estate Company originated and/or acquired. Foreclosure may generate negative publicity for the underlying property that affects its market value. In addition to the length and expense of such proceedings, the validity of the terms of the applicable loan may not be recognized in foreclosure proceedings. Claims and defenses asserted by borrowers or other lenders may interfere with the enforcement of rights by a Real Estate Company. Parallel proceedings, such as bankruptcy, may also delay resolution and limit the amount of recovery on a foreclosed loan by a Real Estate Company even where the property underlying the loan is liquidated.
Property Risk. Real Estate Companies may be subject to risks relating to functional obsolescence or reduced desirability of properties; extended vacancies due to economic conditions and tenant bankruptcies; catastrophic events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and terrorist acts; and casualty or condemnation losses. Real estate income and values also may be greatly affected by demographic trends, such as population shifts or changing tastes and values, or increasing vacancies or declining rents resulting from legal, cultural, technological, global or local economic developments.
Distressed Investment Risk. Real Estate Companies may invest in distressed, defaulted or out-of-favor bank loans. Identification and implementation by a Real Estate Company of loan modification and restructure programs involves a high degree of uncertainty. Even successful implementation may still require adverse compromises and may not prevent bankruptcy. Real Estate Companies may also invest in other debt instruments that may become non-performing, including the securities of companies with higher credit and market risk due to financial or operational difficulties. Higher risk securities may be less liquid and more volatile than the securities of companies not in distress.
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Underlying Investment Risk. Real Estate Companies make investments in a variety of debt and equity instruments with varying risk profiles. For instance, Real Estate Companies may invest in debt instruments secured by commercial property that have higher risks of delinquency and foreclosure than loans on single family homes due to a variety of factors associated with commercial property, including the tie between income available to service debt and productive use of the property. Real Estate Companies may also invest in debt instruments and preferred equity that are junior in an issuer’s capital structure and that involve privately negotiated structures. Subordinated debt investments, such as B-Notes and mezzanine loans, involve a greater credit risk of default due to the need to service more senior debt of the issuer. Similarly, preferred equity investments involve a greater risk of loss than conventional debt financing due to their non-collateralized nature and subordinated ranking. Investments in commercial mortgage-backed securities may also be junior in priority in the event of bankruptcy or similar proceedings. Investments in senior loans may be effectively subordinated if the senior loan is pledged as collateral. The ability of a holder of junior claims to proceed against a defaulting issuer is circumscribed by the terms of the particular contractual arrangement, which vary considerably from transaction to transaction.
Management Risk. Real Estate Companies are dependent upon management skills and may have limited financial resources. Real Estate Companies are generally not diversified and may be subject to heavy cash flow dependency, default by borrowers and voluntary liquidation. In addition, transactions between Real Estate Companies and their affiliates may be subject to conflicts of interest, which may adversely affect a Real Estate Company’s shareholders. A Real Estate Company may also have joint venture investments in certain of its properties, and, consequently, its ability to control decisions relating to such properties may be limited.
Illiquidity Risk. Investing in Real Estate Companies may involve risks similar to those associated with investing in small-capitalization companies. Real Estate Company securities, like the securities of small-capitalization companies, may be more volatile than, and perform differently from, shares of large-capitalization companies. There may be less trading in Real Estate Company shares, which means that buy and sell transactions in those shares could have a magnified impact on share price, resulting in abrupt or erratic price fluctuations. In addition, real estate is relatively illiquid, and, therefore, a Real Estate Company may have a limited ability to vary or liquidate properties in response to changes in economic or other conditions.
Concentration Risk. Real Estate Companies may own a limited number of properties and concentrate their investments in a particular geographic region or property type. Economic downturns affecting a particular region, industry or property type may lead to a high volume of defaults within a short period.
Regulatory Risk. Real estate income and values may be adversely affected by such factors as applicable domestic and foreign laws (including tax laws). Government actions, such as tax increases, zoning law changes or environmental regulations, also may have a major impact on real estate income and values. In addition, quarterly compliance with regulations limiting the proportion of asset types held by a U.S. REIT may force certain Real Estate Companies to liquidate or restructure otherwise attractive investments. Some countries may not recognize REITs or comparable structures as a viable form of real estate funds.
Proxy Voting Policy
For the Fund, the Board has delegated the voting of proxies for the Fund’s securities to BFA pursuant to the Fund's Proxy Voting Policy (the “iShares ETFs Proxy Voting Policy”), and BFA has adopted policies and procedures (the “BlackRock Proxy Voting Policies”) governing proxy voting by accounts managed by BFA, including the Fund.
Under the BlackRock Proxy Voting Policies, BFA will vote proxies related to Fund securities in the best interests of the Fund and its shareholders. From time to time, a vote may present a conflict between the interests of the Fund’s shareholders, on the one hand, and those of BFA, or any affiliated person of the Fund or BFA, on the other. BFA maintains policies and procedures that are designed to prevent undue influence on BFA’s proxy voting activity that might stem from any relationship between the issuer of a proxy (or any dissident shareholder) and BFA, BFA’s affiliates, the Fund or the Fund’s affiliates. Most conflicts are managed through a structural separation of BFA’s Corporate Governance Group from BFA’s employees with sales and client responsibilities. In addition, BFA maintains procedures to ensure that all engagements with corporate issuers or dissident shareholders are managed consistently and without regard to BFA’s relationship with the issuer of the proxy or the dissident shareholder. In certain instances, BFA may determine to engage an independent fiduciary to vote proxies as a further safeguard to avoid potential conflicts of interest or as otherwise required by applicable law.
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Copies of the iShares ETFs Proxy Voting Policy, the BlackRock Global Proxy Voting Policies and the BlackRock U.S. Proxy Voting Policies are attached as Appendices A1, A2 and A3, respectively.
Information with respect to how proxies relating to the Fund's portfolio securities were voted during the 12-month period ending June 30 will be available: (i) without charge, upon request, by calling 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737) or through the Fund's website at www.iShares.com; and (ii) on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.
Portfolio Holdings Information
The Board has adopted a policy regarding the disclosure of the Fund's portfolio holdings information that requires that such information be disclosed in a manner that: (i) is consistent with applicable legal requirements and in the best interests of the Fund’s shareholders; (ii) does not put the interests of BFA, the Distributor or any affiliated person of BFA or the Distributor, above those of Fund shareholders; (iii) does not advantage any current or prospective Fund shareholders over any other current or prospective Fund shareholders, except to the extent that certain Entities (as described below) may receive portfolio holdings information not available to other current or prospective Fund shareholders in connection with the dissemination of information necessary for transactions in Creation Units, as discussed below, and certain information may be provided to personnel of BFA and its affiliates who manage funds that invest a significant percentage of their assets in shares of the Fund for the purpose of facilitating risk management and hedging activities; and (iv) does not provide selective access to portfolio holdings information except pursuant to the procedures outlined below and to the extent appropriate confidentiality arrangements limiting the use of such information are in effect. The “Entities” referred to in sub-section (iii) above are generally limited to National Securities Clearing Corporation (“NSCC”) members, subscribers to various fee-based subscription services, large institutional investors (known as “Authorized Participants”) that have been authorized by the Distributor to purchase and redeem large blocks of shares pursuant to legal requirements and market makers and other institutional market participants and entities that provide information or transactional services.
Each business day, the Fund's portfolio holdings information will be provided to the Distributor or other agent for dissemination through the facilities of the NSCC and/or other fee-based subscription services to NSCC members and/or subscribers to those other fee-based subscription services, including market makers and Authorized Participants, and to entities that publish and/or analyze such information in connection with the process of purchasing or redeeming Creation Units or trading shares of the Fund in the secondary market or evaluating such potential transactions. This information typically reflects the Fund’s anticipated holdings on the following business day.
Daily access to information concerning the Fund's portfolio holdings is permitted: (i) to certain personnel of those service providers that are involved in portfolio management and providing administrative, operational, risk management, or other support to portfolio management; and (ii) to other personnel of BFA, the Distributor and their affiliates, and the administrator, custodian and fund accountant who deal directly with, or assist in, functions related to investment management, distribution, administration, custody, securities lending and fund accounting, as may be necessary to conduct business in the ordinary course in a manner consistent with federal securities laws and regulations thereunder. In addition, the Fund discloses its portfolio holdings daily at www.iShares.com. More information about this disclosure is available at www.iShares.com.
Portfolio holdings information made available in connection with the creation/redemption process may be provided to other entities that provide services to the Fund in the ordinary course of business after it has been disseminated to the NSCC. From time to time, information concerning portfolio holdings other than portfolio holdings information made available in connection with the creation/redemption process, as discussed above, may be provided to other entities that provide services to the Fund, including rating or ranking organizations, in the ordinary course of business, no earlier than one business day following the date of the information.
The Fund will disclose its complete portfolio holdings schedule in public filings with the SEC within 70 days of the end of the second and fourth fiscal quarters and within 60 days of the end of the first and third fiscal quarters and will provide such information to shareholders as required by federal securities laws and regulations thereunder. The Fund may, however, voluntarily disclose all or part of its portfolio holdings other than in connection with the creation/redemption process, as discussed above, in advance of required filings with the SEC, provided that such information is made generally available to all shareholders and other interested parties in a manner that is consistent with the above policy for disclosure of portfolio
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holdings information. Such information may be made available through a publicly available website or other means that make the information available to all likely interested parties contemporaneously.
The Trust's Chief Compliance Officer or his delegate may authorize disclosure of portfolio holdings information pursuant to the above policy and procedures, subject to restrictions on selective disclosure imposed by applicable law.
The Board reviews the policy and procedures for disclosure of portfolio holdings information at least annually.
Construction and Maintenance of the Underlying Index
A description of the Underlying Index is provided below.
With respect to certain underlying indexes of the iShares funds, BFA or its affiliates have held discussions with the index provider regarding their business interest in licensing an index to track a particular market segment and conveyed investment concepts and strategies that could be considered for the index. The index provider designed and constituted the index using concepts conveyed by BFA or its affiliates. For certain of these indices, the relevant fund may be the first or sole user of the underlying index. In its sole discretion, the index provider determines the composition of the securities and other instruments in such underlying index, the rebalance protocols of the underlying index, the weightings of the securities and other instruments in the underlying index, and any updates to the methodology. From time to time, BFA or its affiliates may also provide input relating to possible methodology changes of such underlying index pursuant to the index provider’s consultation process or pursuant to other communications with the index provider.
The MSCI Indexes
The MSCI indexes were founded in 1969 by Capital International S.A. as international performance benchmarks constructed to facilitate comparison of world markets. The MSCI single country standard equity indexes have covered the world's developed markets since 1969 and in 1987 MSCI commenced coverage of emerging markets.
Local stock exchanges traditionally calculated their own indexes, which were generally not comparable with one another due to differences in the representation of the local market, mathematical formulas, base dates and methods of adjusting for capital changes. MSCI, however, applies the same calculation methodology to all markets for all single country standard equity indexes, both developed and emerging.
MSCI's Global Investable Market Indexes (the “MSCI GIMI”) provide coverage and non-overlapping market segmentation by market capitalization size and by style. The MSCI GIMI intend to target approximately 99% coverage of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each market of large-, mid- and small-cap securities.
MSCI Global Standard Indexes cover all investable large- and mid-cap securities by including the largest issuers comprising approximately 85% of each market's free float-adjusted market capitalization.
MSCI Global Large Cap Indexes provide coverage of all investable large-cap securities by including the largest issuers comprising approximately 70% of each market’s free-float adjusted market capitalization.
MSCI Global Mid Cap Indexes provide coverage in each market by deriving the difference between the market coverage of the MSCI Global Standard Index and the MSCI Global Large Cap Index in that market.
MSCI Global Small Cap Indexes provide coverage of companies with a market capitalization below that of the companies in the MSCI Global Standard Indexes.
MSCI Global Investable Market Indexes
Selection Criteria. MSCI's index construction process involves: (i) defining the equity universe; (ii) determining the market investable equity universe for each market; (iii) determining market capitalization size segments for each market; (iv) applying final size segment investability requirements; and (v) applying index continuity rules for the MSCI Global Standard Index.
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Defining the Equity Universe. MSCI begins with securities listed in countries in the MSCI GIMI. As of May 30, 2020, 23 are classified as developed markets, 26 as emerging markets, and 28 as frontier markets. All listed equity securities and listed securities that exhibit characteristics of equity securities, except mutual funds, ETFs, equity derivatives, limited partnerships and most investment trusts, are eligible for inclusion in the equity universe. REITs in some countries and certain income trusts in Canada are also eligible for inclusion. Each company and its securities (i.e., share classes) are classified in only one country.
Determining the Market Investable Equity Universe for Each Market. The equity universe in any market is derived by applying investability screens to individual companies and securities in that market. Some investability requirements are applied at the individual security level and some at the overall company level, represented by the aggregation of individual securities of the company. As a result, the inclusion or exclusion of one security does not imply the automatic inclusion or exclusion of other securities of the same company.
Determining Market Capitalization Size Segments for Each Market. In each market, MSCI creates an Investable Market Index, Standard Index, Large Cap Index, Mid Cap Index and Small Cap Index. The MSCI Global Standard Index is the aggregation of the Large Cap Index and Mid Cap Index. The MSCI GIMI are the aggregation of the MSCI Global Standard Index and MSCI Global Small Cap Index. In order to create size components that can be meaningfully aggregated into composites, individual market size segments balance the following two objectives:
Achieving global size integrity by ensuring that companies of comparable and relevant sizes are included in a given size segment across all markets in a composite index; and
Achieving consistent market coverage by ensuring that each market's size segment is represented in its proportional weight in the composite universe.
Applying Final Size Segment Investability Requirements. In order to enhance replicability of the indexes, additional size segment investability requirements are set for the MSCI GIMI and MSCI Global Standard Index. These investability requirements include minimum free float-adjusted market capitalization, minimum liquidity, minimum foreign limits and minimum length of trading.
Applying Index Continuity Rules for the Standard Index. In order to achieve index continuity as well as provide some basic level of diversification within a market index, notwithstanding the effect of other index construction rules contained herein, a minimum number of five constituents will be maintained for a developed market Standard Index and a minimum number of three constituents will be maintained for an emerging market Standard Index.
Weighting. All indexes of the MSCI GIMI are free float weighted, i.e., companies are included in the indexes at the value of their free public float (free float multiplied by security price).
Regional Weights. Market capitalization-weighting, combined with a consistent target of approximately 99% of free float-adjusted market capitalization, helps ensure that each country's weight in regional and international indexes approximates its weight in the total universe of developing and emerging markets. A market is equivalent to a single country except for developed Europe, where all markets are aggregated into a single market for index construction purposes. Individual country indexes of the European developed markets are derived from the constituents of the MSCI GIMI Europe Index.
Free Float. MSCI defines the free float of a security as the proportion of shares outstanding that are deemed to be available for purchase in the public equity markets by international investors. In practice, limitations on free float available to international investors include: (i) strategic and other shareholdings not considered part of available free float; and (ii) limits on share ownership for foreigners.
MSCI calculates the free float adjusted market capitalization of each security in the equity index universe by; (i) defining and estimating the free float available to foreign investors; (ii) assigning a free float-adjustment factor to each security; and (iii) calculating the free float-adjusted market capitalization of each security.
Under MSCI's free float-adjustment methodology, a constituent's inclusion factor is equal to its estimated free float, rounded up to the closest 5% for constituents with free float equal to or exceeding 15%. For example, a constituent security with a free float of 23.2% will be included in the index at 25% of its market capitalization. For securities with a free float of less than 15%, the estimated free float is adjusted to the nearest 1%.
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Price and Exchange Rates
Prices. The prices used to calculate all MSCI indexes are the official exchange closing prices or those figures accepted as such. MSCI reserves the right to use an alternative pricing source on any given day.
Exchange Rates. MSCI uses the World Markets/Reuters Closing Spot Rates taken at 4:00 p.m. London time. In case World Markets/Reuters does not provide rates for specific markets on given days (for example, Christmas Day and New Year's Day), the previous business day's rates are normally used. MSCI independently monitors the exchange rates on all its indexes. MSCI may under exceptional circumstances elect to use alternative sources of exchange rates if the World Markets/Reuters rates are not available, or if MSCI determines that the World Markets/Reuters rates are not reflective of market circumstances for a given currency on a particular day. In such circumstances, an announcement would be sent to clients with the related information. If appropriate, MSCI may conduct a consultation with the investment community to gather feedback on the most relevant exchange rate.
Changes to the Indexes. The MSCI GIMI are maintained with the objective of reflecting, on a timely basis, the evolution of the underlying equity markets. In maintaining the MSCI indexes, emphasis is also placed on continuity, replicability and minimizing turnover in the indexes. Maintaining the MSCI indexes involves many aspects, including: (i) additions to, and deletions from, the indexes; (ii) changes in number of shares; and (iii) changes in inclusion factors as a result of updated free float estimates.
Index maintenance can be described by three broad categories of changes:
Semi-Annual Index Reviews (“SAIRs”), conducted on a fixed semi-annual timetable that systematically reassess the various dimensions of the equity universe for all markets;
Quarterly Index Reviews (“QIRs”), aimed at promptly reflecting other significant market events; and
Ongoing event-related changes, such as mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs, bankruptcies, reorganizations and other similar corporate events, which generally are implemented in the indexes as they occur.
Potential changes in the status of countries (stand-alone, frontier, emerging and developed) follow their own implementation time tables.
MSCI conducts SAIRs generally as of the close of the last business day of May and November. During the SAIRs, MSCI updates the investable equity universe and reassesses size segmentation investability requirements. MSCI also conducts QIRs generally as of the close of the last business day of February and August. During the QIRs, MSCI reflects changes in the index that were not captured at the time of their actual occurrence, but are significant enough to be included before the next SAIR. The results of the SAIR and QIR are generally announced at least ten business days in advance of implementation.
MSCI Emerging Markets Choice ESG Screened 5% Issuer Capped Index
Number of Components: approximately 385
Index Description. The MSCI Emerging Markets Choice ESG Screened 5% Issuer Capped Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index designed to reflect the equity performance of large- and mid-capitalization emerging market companies with favorable environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) ratings (as determined by MSCI ESG Research LLC) while applying extensive screens, including a focus on removing fossil fuel exposure. MSCI begins with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (the “Parent Index”) and selects companies with favorable ESG ratings while excluding:
All companies that derive 5% or more aggregate revenue from the production, distribution and retail, and all companies that produce, direct, or publish adult entertainment materials that fall into the following categories: producer of X-rated films, pay-per-view programming or channels, sexually explicit video games, books or magazines with adult content, live entertainment of an adult nature, and adults-only material on the internet;
All companies deriving 5% or more revenue from the manufacture of alcoholic products, all companies classified as a “producer” that derive $500 million or more in revenue from manufacturing, distributing, retailing, licensing, and supplying alcoholic products, and all companies deriving 15% or more aggregate revenue from the manufacture, distribution, retailing, licensing, and supply of alcoholic products;
All companies deriving 5% or more revenue from ownership or operation of gambling facilities such as casinos,
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  racetracks, bingo parlors, or other betting establishments, all companies classified as involved in “operations” that derive $500 million or more in revenue from ownership or operation of gambling facilities, provision of key products or services fundamental to gambling operations, and licensing of gambling products, and all companies deriving 15% or more aggregate revenue from ownership or operation of gambling facilities, provision of key products or services fundamental to gambling operations, and licensing of gambling products;
All companies that manufacture tobacco products, such as cigars, blunts, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, inhalers, beedis, kreteks, smokeless tobacco, snuff, snus, dissolvable and chewing tobacco (including companies that grow or process raw tobacco leaves), and all companies deriving 5% or more aggregate revenue from the manufacture, distribution, retailing, licensing, and supply of tobacco products;
All companies deriving revenue from genetically modifying plants, such as seeds and crops, and other organisms intended for agricultural use or human consumption;
All companies with any tie to “controversial weapons” (cluster munitions, landmines, depleted uranium weapons, biological/chemical weapons, blinding lasers, non-detectable fragments and incendiary weapons), as defined by Index Provider;
All companies that manufacture nuclear warheads and/or whole nuclear missiles (including assembly and integration of warhead and missile body, as well as companies with contracts to operate/manage government-owned facilities that manufacture nuclear warheads and missiles), all companies that manufacture components that were developed or are significantly modified for exclusive use in nuclear weapons (warheads and missiles) (including companies with contracts to operate/manage government-owned facilities that manufacture components for nuclear warheads and missiles), all companies that manufacture or assemble delivery platforms that were developed or significantly modified for the exclusive delivery of nuclear weapons, all companies that provide auxiliary services related to nuclear weapons (such as repairing and maintaining nuclear weapons, providing overhaul and upgrade services, stockpiling and stewardship, R&D work, testing and simulations, etc.) (including companies with contracts to operate/manage government-owned facilities that conduct R&D, testing, simulations, and other essential sciences on nuclear weapons), all companies that manufacture components that were not developed or not significantly modified for exclusive use in nuclear weapons (warheads and missiles) but can be used in nuclear weapons, all companies that manufacture or assemble delivery platforms that were not developed or not significantly modified for the exclusive delivery of nuclear weapons but have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons, and all companies that manufacture components for nuclear-exclusive delivery platforms;
All companies that manufacture firearms and small arms ammunitions for civilian markets (but not including companies that cater to the military, government, and law enforcement markets), all companies deriving 5% or more aggregate revenue from the production and distribution (wholesale or retail) of firearms or small arms ammunition intended for civilian use, and all companies deriving $20 million or more revenue from the production and distribution (wholesale or retail) of firearms or small arms ammunition intended for civilian use;
All companies deriving 5% or more revenue from the production of conventional weapons and components, all companies deriving 10% or more aggregate revenue from weapons systems, components, and support systems and services for conventional weapons;
All companies deriving 50% or more revenue from involvement in the operation of “for profit prisons” (also known as “private prisons”) or the provision of integral services to these types of facilities;
All companies deriving 5% or more revenue from products and services associated with certain controversial lending practices;
All companies deriving revenue from cultivating oil palm trees and harvesting fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) used to produce palm oil products, or 5% or more revenue from distributing palm oil products, such as crude palm oil, crude palm kernel oil, refined, bleached, and/or deodorized palm oil and palm kernel oil (however, companies that have 75% or more of their palm oil holdings or estates certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil are added back in);
All companies that own or operate nuclear power plants, own or operate active uranium mines, are involved in uranium enrichment and processing, are involved in the design and engineering of nuclear power reactors, or derive 15% or
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  more aggregate revenue from ownership or operation of nuclear power plants and supply of key nuclear-specific products or services (however, companies that derive 50% or more revenue from products, services, or infrastructure projects supporting the development or delivery of renewable energy and alternative fuels, or generate 50% or more of their total electricity from renewable energies are added back in); and
All companies with an industry tie to fossil fuels (thermal coal, oil and gas) - in particular, reserve ownership, related revenues and power generation, but not including companies providing evidence of owning metallurgical coal reserves (however, all companies that derive 50% or more revenue from products, services, or infrastructure projects supporting the development or delivery of renewable energy and alternative fuels, or generate 50% or more of their total electricity from renewable energies, but that do not have an industry tie to thermal coal (i.e., reserve ownership, production, and power generation), an industry tie to oil sands (i.e., reserve ownership and production activities), or evidence of owning fossil fuel reserves used most likely for energy applications are added back in).
Additionally, MSCI excludes companies involved in very serious business controversies. The Underlying Index also applies a 5% cap on any individual issuer to minimize constituent concentration.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
Additional Information. “MSCI” and “MSCI Emerging Markets Choice ESG Screened 5% Issuer Capped Index” are servicemarks of MSCI Inc. and have been licensed for use by BFA or its affiliates. The Fund is neither sponsored, endorsed, sold nor promoted by MSCI Inc., and MSCI Inc. makes no representation regarding the advisability of investing in the Fund.
Investment Policies
The Board has adopted as fundamental policies the following numbered investment policies, which cannot be changed without the approval of the holders of a majority of the Fund’s outstanding voting securities. A vote of a majority of the outstanding voting securities of the Fund is defined in the Investment Company Act as the lesser of (i) 67% or more of the voting securities present at a shareholder meeting, if the holders of more than 50% of the outstanding voting securities of the Fund are present or represented by proxy, or (ii) more than 50% of the outstanding voting securities of the Fund. The Fund has also adopted certain non-fundamental investment policies, including its investment objective. Non-fundamental investment policies may be changed by the Board without shareholder approval. Therefore, the Fund may change its investment objective and its Underlying Index without shareholder approval.
Fundamental Investment Policies
The Fund may not:
1. Concentrate its investments in a particular industry, as that term is used in the Investment Company Act, except that the Fund will concentrate to approximately the same extent that its Underlying Index concentrates in the securities of a particular industry or group of industries.
2. Borrow money, except as permitted under the Investment Company Act.
3. Issue senior securities to the extent such issuance would violate the Investment Company Act.
4. Purchase or hold real estate, except the Fund may purchase and hold securities or other instruments that are secured by, or linked to, real estate or interests therein, securities of REITs, mortgage-related securities and securities of issuers engaged in the real estate business, and the Fund may purchase and hold real estate as a result of the ownership of securities or other instruments.
5. Underwrite securities issued by others, except to the extent that the sale of portfolio securities by the Fund may be deemed to be an underwriting or as otherwise permitted by applicable law.
6. Purchase or sell commodities or commodity contracts, except as permitted by the Investment Company Act.
7. Make loans to the extent prohibited by the Investment Company Act.
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Notations Regarding the Fund's Fundamental Investment Policies
The following notations are not considered to be part of the Fund’s fundamental investment policies and are subject to change without shareholder approval.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to concentration set forth in (1) above, the Investment Company Act does not define what constitutes “concentration” in an industry. The SEC staff has taken the position that investment of 25% or more of a fund’s total assets in one or more issuers conducting their principal activities in the same industry or group of industries constitutes concentration. It is possible that interpretations of concentration could change in the future. The policy in (1) above will be interpreted to refer to concentration as that term may be interpreted from time to time. The policy also will be interpreted to permit investment without limit in the following: securities of the U.S. government and its agencies or instrumentalities; securities of state, territory, possession or municipal governments and their authorities, agencies, instrumentalities or political subdivisions; and repurchase agreements collateralized by any such obligations. Accordingly, issuers of the foregoing securities will not be considered to be members of any industry. There also will be no limit on investment in issuers domiciled in a single jurisdiction or country. Finance companies will be considered to be in the industries of their parents if their activities are primarily related to financing the activities of the parents. Each foreign government will be considered to be a member of a separate industry. With respect to the Fund's industry classifications, the Fund currently utilizes any one or more of the industry sub-classifications used by one or more widely recognized market indexes or rating group indexes, and/or as defined by Fund management. The policy also will be interpreted to give broad authority to the Fund as to how to classify issuers within or among industries.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to borrowing money set forth in (2) above, the Investment Company Act permits the Fund to borrow money in amounts of up to one-third of the Fund’s total assets from banks for any purpose, and to borrow up to 5% of the Fund’s total assets from banks or other lenders for temporary purposes. (The Fund’s total assets include the amounts being borrowed.) To limit the risks attendant to borrowing, the Investment Company Act requires the Fund to maintain at all times an “asset coverage” of at least 300% of the amount of its borrowings. Asset coverage means the ratio that the value of the Fund’s total assets (including amounts borrowed), minus liabilities other than borrowings, bears to the aggregate amount of all borrowings. Borrowing money to increase portfolio holdings is known as “leveraging.” Certain trading practices and investments, such as reverse repurchase agreements, may be considered to be borrowings or involve leverage and thus are subject to the Investment Company Act restrictions. In accordance with SEC staff guidance and interpretations, when the Fund engages in such transactions, the Fund instead of maintaining asset coverage of at least 300%, may segregate or earmark liquid assets, or enter into an offsetting position, in an amount at least equal to the Fund’s exposure, on a mark-to-market basis, to the transaction (as calculated pursuant to requirements of the SEC). The policy in (2) above will be interpreted to permit the Fund to engage in trading practices and investments that may be considered to be borrowing or to involve leverage to the extent permitted by the Investment Company Act and to permit the Fund to segregate or earmark liquid assets or enter into offsetting positions in accordance with the Investment Company Act. Short-term credits necessary for the settlement of securities transactions and arrangements with respect to securities lending will not be considered to be borrowings under the policy. Practices and investments that may involve leverage but are not considered to be borrowings are not subject to the policy.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to underwriting set forth in (5) above, the Investment Company Act does not prohibit the Fund from engaging in the underwriting business or from underwriting the securities of other issuers; in fact, in the case of diversified funds, the Investment Company Act permits the Fund to have underwriting commitments of up to 25% of its assets under certain circumstances. Those circumstances currently are that the amount of the Fund’s underwriting commitments, when added to the value of the Fund’s investments in issuers where the Fund owns more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of those issuers, cannot exceed the 25% cap. A fund engaging in transactions involving the acquisition or disposition of portfolio securities may be considered to be an underwriter under the 1933 Act. Although it is not believed that the application of the 1933 Act provisions described above would cause the Fund to be engaged in the business of underwriting, the policy in (5) above will be interpreted not to prevent the Fund from engaging in transactions involving the acquisition or disposition of portfolio securities, regardless of whether the Fund may be considered to be an underwriter under the 1933 Act or is otherwise engaged in the underwriting business to the extent permitted by applicable law.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to lending set forth in (7) above, the Investment Company Act does not prohibit the Fund from making loans (including lending its securities); however, SEC staff interpretations currently prohibit funds from lending more than one-third of their total assets (including lending its securities), except through the purchase of
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debt obligations or the use of repurchase agreements. In addition, collateral arrangements with respect to options, forward currency and futures transactions and other derivative instruments (as applicable), as well as delays in the settlement of securities transactions, will not be considered loans.
Non-Fundamental Investment Policies
The Fund has adopted a non-fundamental policy not to make short sales of securities or maintain a short position, except to the extent permitted by the Fund's Prospectus and SAI, as amended from time to time, and applicable law.
The Fund has adopted a non-fundamental investment policy in accordance with Rule 35d-1 under the Investment Company Act to invest, under normal circumstances, at least 80% of the value of its net assets, plus the amount of any borrowings for investment purposes, in the component securities of its Underlying Index or in depositary receipts representing component securities in its Underlying Index. The Fund also has adopted a policy to provide its shareholders with at least 60 days’ prior written notice of any change in such policy. If, subsequent to an investment, the 80% requirement is no longer met, the Fund’s future investments will be made in a manner that will bring the Fund into compliance with this policy.
The Fund has adopted a non-fundamental policy not to purchase securities of other investment companies, except to the extent permitted by the Investment Company Act. As a matter of policy, however, the Fund will not purchase shares of any registered open-end investment company or registered unit investment trust, in reliance on Section 12(d)(1)(F) or (G) (the “fund of funds” provisions) of the Investment Company Act, at any time the Fund has knowledge that its shares are purchased by another investment company investor in reliance on the provisions of subparagraph (G) of Section 12(d)(1).
Unless otherwise indicated, all limitations under the Fund's fundamental or non-fundamental investment policies apply only at the time that a transaction is undertaken. Any change in the percentage of the Fund's assets invested in certain securities or other instruments resulting from market fluctuations or other changes in the Fund’s total assets will not require the Fund to dispose of an investment until BFA determines that it is practicable to sell or close out the investment without undue market or tax consequences.
Continuous Offering
The method by which Creation Units are created and traded may raise certain issues under applicable securities laws. Because new Creation Units are issued and sold by the Fund on an ongoing basis, at any point a “distribution,” as such term is used in the 1933 Act, may occur. Broker-dealers and other persons are cautioned that some activities on their part may, depending on the circumstances, result in their being deemed participants in a distribution in a manner that could render them statutory underwriters and subject them to the prospectus delivery requirement and liability provisions of the 1933 Act.
For example, a broker-dealer firm or its client may be deemed a statutory underwriter if it takes Creation Units after placing an order with the Distributor, breaks them down into constituent shares and sells such shares directly to customers or if it chooses to couple the creation of new shares with an active selling effort involving solicitation of secondary market demand for shares. A determination of whether one is an underwriter for purposes of the 1933 Act must take into account all of the facts and circumstances pertaining to the activities of the broker-dealer or its client in the particular case and the examples mentioned above should not be considered a complete description of all the activities that could lead to a categorization as an underwriter.
Broker-dealer firms should also note that dealers who are not “underwriters” but are effecting transactions in shares, whether or not participating in the distribution of shares, generally are required to deliver a prospectus. This is because the prospectus delivery exemption in Section 4(a)(3) of the 1933 Act is not available in respect of such transactions as a result of Section 24(d) of the 1940 Act. Firms that incur a prospectus delivery obligation with respect to shares of the Fund are reminded that, pursuant to Rule 153 under the 1933 Act, a prospectus delivery obligation under Section 5(b)(2) of the 1933 Act owed to an exchange member in connection with a sale on the Listing Exchange generally is satisfied by the fact that the prospectus is available at the Listing Exchange upon request. The prospectus delivery mechanism provided in Rule 153 is available only with respect to transactions on an exchange.
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Management
Trustees and Officers.  The Board has responsibility for the overall management and operations of the Fund, including general supervision of the duties performed by BFA and other service providers. Each Trustee serves until he or she resigns, is removed, dies, retires or becomes incapacitated. Each officer shall hold office until his or her successor is elected and qualifies or until his or her death, resignation or removal. Trustees who are not “interested persons” (as defined in the 1940 Act) of the Trust are referred to as independent trustees (“Independent Trustees”).
The registered investment companies advised by BFA or its affiliates (the “BlackRock-advised Funds”) are organized into one complex of open-end equity, multi-asset, index and money market funds (the “BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex”), one complex of closed-end funds and open-end non-index fixed-income funds (the “BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex”) and one complex of ETFs (“Exchange-Traded Fund Complex”) (each, a “BlackRock Fund Complex”). The Fund is included in the BlackRock Fund Complex referred to as the Exchange-Traded Fund Complex. Each Trustee also serves as a Director of iShares, Inc. and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust and, as a result, oversees all of the funds within the Exchange-Traded Fund Complex, which consists of 374 funds as of June 15, 2020. With the exception of Robert S. Kapito, Salim Ramji and Charles Park, the address of each Trustee and officer is c/o BlackRock, Inc., 400 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. The address of Mr. Kapito, Mr. Ramji and Mr. Park is c/o BlackRock, Inc., Park Avenue Plaza, 55 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10055. The Board has designated Cecilia H. Herbert as its Independent Board Chair. Additional information about the Fund's Trustees and officers may be found in this SAI, which is available without charge, upon request, by calling toll-free 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737).
Interested Trustees
Name (Age)   Position   Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
  Other Directorships
Held by Trustee
Robert S. Kapito1
(63)
  Trustee
(since 2009).
  President, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2006); Vice Chairman of BlackRock, Inc. and Head of BlackRock’s Portfolio Management Group (since its formation in 1998) and BlackRock, Inc.’s predecessor entities (since 1988); Trustee, University of Pennsylvania (since 2009); President of Board of Directors, Hope & Heroes Children’s Cancer Fund (since 2002).   Director of BlackRock, Inc. (since 2006); Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2009); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2011).
Salim Ramji2
(49)
  Trustee (since 2019).   Senior Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2014); Global Head of BlackRock’s ETF and Index Investments Business (since 2019); Head of BlackRock’s U.S. Wealth Advisory Business (2015-2019); Global Head of Corporate Strategy, BlackRock, Inc. (2014-2015); Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company (2010-2014).   Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2019); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2019).

1 Robert S. Kapito is deemed to be an “interested person” (as defined in the 1940 Act) of the Trust due to his affiliations with BlackRock, Inc. and its affiliates.
2 Salim Ramji is deemed to be an “interested person” (as defined in the 1940 Act) of the Trust due to his affiliations with BlackRock, Inc. and its affiliates.
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Independent Trustees
Name (Age)   Position   Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
  Other Directorships
Held by Trustee
Cecilia H. Herbert
(71)
  Trustee
(since 2005); Independent Board Chair
(since 2016).
  Chair of the Finance Committee (since 2019) and Trustee and Member of the Finance, Audit and Quality Committees of Stanford Health Care (since 2016); Trustee of WNET, New York's public media company (since 2011) and Member of the Audit Committee (since 2018) and Investment Committee (since 2011); Chair (1994-2005) and Member (since 1992) of the Investment Committee, Archdiocese of San Francisco; Trustee of Forward Funds (14 portfolios) (2009-2018); Trustee of Salient MF Trust (4 portfolios) (2015-2018); Director (1998-2013) and President (2007-2011) of the Board of Directors, Catholic Charities CYO; Trustee (2002-2011) and Chair of the Finance and Investment Committee (2006-2010) of the Thacher School.
  Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2005); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2011); Independent Board Chair of iShares, Inc. and iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2016); Trustee of Thrivent Church Loan and Income Fund (since 2019).
Jane D. Carlin
(64)
  Trustee
(since 2015); Risk Committee Chair (since 2016).
  Consultant (since 2012); Member of the Audit Committee (2012-2018), Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee (2017-2018) and Director of PHH Corporation (mortgage solutions) (2012-2018); Managing Director and Global Head of Financial Holding Company Governance & Assurance and the Global Head of Operational Risk Management of Morgan Stanley (2006-2012).   Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2015); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2015); Member of the Audit Committee (since 2016) and Director of The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc. (since 2016).
Richard L. Fagnani
(65)
  Trustee
(since 2017); Audit Committee Chair (since 2019).
  Partner, KPMG LLP (2002-2016).   Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2017); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2017).
John E. Kerrigan
(64)
  Trustee
(since 2005); Nominating and Governance and Equity Plus Committee Chairs
(since 2019).
  Chief Investment Officer, Santa Clara University (since 2002).   Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2005); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2011).
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Name (Age)   Position   Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
  Other Directorships
Held by Trustee
Drew E. Lawton
(61)
  Trustee
(since 2017); 15(c) Committee Chair (since 2017).
  Senior Managing Director of New York Life Insurance Company (2010-2015).   Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2017); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2017).
John E. Martinez
(58)
  Trustee
(since 2003);
Securities Lending Committee Chair
(since 2019).
  Director of Real Estate Equity Exchange, Inc. (since 2005); Director of Cloudera Foundation (since 2017); and Director of Reading Partners (2012-2016).   Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2003); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2011).
Madhav V. Rajan
(55)
  Trustee
(since 2011); Fixed Income Plus Committee Chair (since 2019).
  Dean, and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting, University of Chicago Booth School of Business (since 2017); Chair of the Board for the Center for Research in Security Prices, LLC (since 2020); Robert K. Jaedicke Professor of Accounting, Stanford University Graduate School of Business (2001-2017); Professor of Law (by courtesy), Stanford Law School (2005-2017); Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Head of MBA Program, Stanford University Graduate School of Business (2010-2016).   Director of iShares, Inc. (since 2011);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust (since 2011).
Officers
Name (Age)   Position   Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Armando Senra
(49)
  President (since 2019).   Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2007); Head of U.S., Canada and Latam iShares, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2019); Head of Latin America Region, BlackRock, Inc. (2006-2019); Managing Director, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (1994-2006).
Trent Walker
(46)
  Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer
(since 2020).
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. (since September 2019); Executive Vice President of PIMCO (2016-2019); Senior Vice President of PIMCO (2008-2015); Treasurer (2013-2019) and Assistant Treasurer (2007-2017) of PIMCO Funds, PIMCO Variable Insurance Trust, PIMCO ETF Trust, PIMCO Equity Series, PIMCO Equity Series VIT, PIMCO Managed Accounts Trust, 2 PIMCO-sponsored interval funds and 21 PIMCO-sponsored closed-end funds.
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Name (Age)   Position   Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Charles Park
(52)
  Chief Compliance Officer (since 2006).   Chief Compliance Officer of BlackRock Advisors, LLC and the BlackRock-advised Funds in the Equity-Bond Complex, the Equity-Liquidity Complex and the Closed-End Complex (since 2014); Chief Compliance Officer of BFA (since 2006).
Deepa Damre
(45)
  Secretary (since 2019).   Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2014); Director, BlackRock, Inc. (2009-2013).
Scott Radell
(51)
  Executive Vice President
(since 2012).
  Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2009); Head of Portfolio Solutions, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2009).
Alan Mason
(59)
  Executive Vice President
(since 2016).
  Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2009).
Marybeth Leithead
(57)
  Executive Vice President
(since 2019).
  Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc. (since 2017); Chief Operating Officer of Americas iShares (since 2017); Portfolio Manager, Municipal Institutional & Wealth Management (2009-2016).
The Board has concluded that, based on each Trustee’s experience, qualifications, attributes or skills on an individual basis and in combination with those of the other Trustees, each Trustee should serve as a Trustee of the Board. Among the attributes common to all Trustees are their ability to review critically, evaluate, question and discuss information provided to them, to interact effectively with the Fund's investment adviser, other service providers, counsel and the independent registered public accounting firm, and to exercise effective business judgment in the performance of their duties as Trustees. A Trustee’s ability to perform his or her duties effectively may have been attained through the Trustee’s educational background or professional training; business, consulting, public service or academic positions; experience from service as a Board member of the Fund and the other funds in the Trust (and any predecessor funds), other investment funds, public companies, or non-profit entities or other organizations; and/or other life experiences. Also, set forth below is a brief discussion of the specific experience, qualifications, attributes or skills of each Trustee that led the Board to conclude that he or she should serve (or continue to serve) as a Trustee.
Robert S. Kapito has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2009. Mr. Kapito has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. since 2009, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011 and a Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2006. Mr. Kapito served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. In addition, he has over 20 years of experience as part of BlackRock, Inc. and BlackRock’s predecessor entities. Mr. Kapito serves as President of BlackRock, Inc., and is a member of the Global Executive Committee and Chairman of the Global Operating Committee. He is responsible for day-to-day oversight of BlackRock's key operating units, including Investment Strategies, Client Businesses, Technology & Operations, and Risk & Quantitative Analysis. Prior to assuming his current responsibilities in 2007, Mr. Kapito served as Vice Chairman of BlackRock, Inc. and Head of BlackRock's Portfolio Management Group. In that role, he was responsible for overseeing all portfolio management within BlackRock, including the Fixed Income, Equity, Liquidity, and Alternative Investment Groups. Mr. Kapito serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors. He has also been President of the Board of Directors for the Hope & Heroes Children's Cancer Fund since 2002. Mr. Kapito earned a BS degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1979, and an MBA degree from Harvard Business School in 1983.
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Salim Ramji has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2019. Mr. Ramji has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2019. Mr. Ramji is the Global Head of BlackRock’s ETF and Index Investments business. In addition, he is a member of BlackRock’s Global Executive Committee. Prior to assuming his current responsibilities in 2019, Mr. Ramji was Head of BlackRock's U.S. Wealth Advisory business, where he was responsible for leading BlackRock's relationships with wealth management firms and platforms, for distributing BlackRock's alpha-seeking and iShares investment capabilities and for the adoption of BlackRock's portfolio construction and digital wealth technologies to financial advisors. Mr. Ramji joined BlackRock in 2014, serving initially as the Global Head of Corporate Strategy. Prior to BlackRock, Mr. Ramji was a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, where he led the Asset and Wealth Management practice areas. He started his career as a corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Clifford Chance LLP in London and Hong Kong. He has served as a Trustee of Graham Windham, a New York-based child care agency, since 2007. Mr. Ramji earned a bachelor's degree in economics and politics from University of Toronto, a law degree, from Cambridge University and is a CFA charter holder.
Cecilia H. Herbert has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2005 and Chair of the Trust's Board since 2016. Ms. Herbert has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. since 2005, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, and Chair of each Board since 2016. Ms. Herbert served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. In addition, Ms. Herbert served as Trustee of the Forward Funds from 2009 to 2018 and Trustee of Salient Funds from 2015 to 2018. She has served since 1992 on the Investment Council of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and was Chair from 1994 to 2005. She has served as a member of the Finance, Audit and Quality Committees and Trustee of Stanford Health Care since 2016 and became Chair of the Finance Committee of Stanford Health Care in 2019. She has served as a Trustee of WNET, New York’s public media station, since 2011 and a Member of its Audit Committee since 2018. She became a member of the Governing Council of the Independent Directors Forum in 2018 and joined the board of Thrivent Church Loan and Income Fund in 2019. She was President of the Board of Catholic Charities CYO, the largest social services agency in the San Francisco Bay Area, from 2007 to 2011 and a member of that board from 1992 to 2013. She previously served as Trustee of the Pacific Select Funds from 2004 to 2005 and Trustee of the Montgomery Funds from 1992 to 2003. She worked from 1973 to 1990 at J.P. Morgan/Morgan Guaranty Trust doing international corporate finance and corporate lending, retiring as Managing Director and Head of the West Coast Office. Ms. Herbert has been on numerous non-profit boards, chairing investment and finance committees. She holds a double major in economics and communications from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Jane D. Carlin has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2015 and Chair of the Risk Committee since 2016. Ms. Carlin has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2015, and Chair of the Risk Committee of each Board since 2016. Ms. Carlin has served as a consultant since 2012 and formerly served as Managing Director and Global Head of Financial Holding Company Governance & Assurance and the Global Head of Operational Risk Management of Morgan Stanley from 2006 to 2012. In addition, Ms. Carlin served as Managing Director and Global Head of the Bank Operational Risk Oversight Department of Credit Suisse Group from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, Ms. Carlin served as Managing Director and Deputy General Counsel of Morgan Stanley. Ms. Carlin has over 30 years of experience in the financial sector and has served in a number of legal, regulatory, and risk management positions. Ms. Carlin has served as a member of the Audit Committee and as a Director of The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc., each since 2016. Ms. Carlin served as a member of the Audit Committee from 2012 to 2018, Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee from 2017 to 2018 and as an Independent Director on the Board of PHH Corporation from 2012 to 2018. She previously served as a Director on the Boards of Astoria Financial Corporation and Astoria Bank. Ms. Carlin was appointed by the United States Treasury to the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security, where she served as Chairperson from 2010 to 2012 and Vice Chair and Chair of the Cyber Security Committee from 2009 to 2010. Ms. Carlin has a BA degree in political science from State University of New York at Stony Brook and a JD degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Richard L. Fagnani has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2017 and Chair of the Audit Committee of the Trust since 2019. Mr. Fagnani has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2017, and Chair of the Audit Committee of each Board since 2019. Mr. Fagnani served as an Advisory Board Member of the Trust, iShares U.S. ETF Trust and iShares, Inc. from April 2017 to June 2017. Mr. Fagnani served as a Senior Audit Partner at KPMG LLP from 2002 to 2016, most recently as the U.S. asset management audit practice leader responsible for setting strategic direction and execution of the operating plan for the asset management audit practice. In addition, from 1977 to 2002, Mr. Fagnani served as an Audit Partner at Andersen LLP, where he developed and managed the asset management audit practice in the Philadelphia office. Mr. Fagnani served as a Trustee on the Board of the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia from 2009 to 2014 and as a
42

 


member of the School of Business Advisory Board at LaSalle University from 2006 to 2014. Mr. Fagnani has a BS degree in Accounting from LaSalle University.
John E. Kerrigan has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2005 and Chair of the Equity Plus and Nominating and Governance Committees of the Trust since 2019. Mr. Kerrigan has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. since 2005, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, and Chair of the Equity Plus and Nominating and Governance Committees of each Board since 2019. Mr. Kerrigan served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. Mr. Kerrigan has served as Chief Investment Officer of Santa Clara University since 2002. Mr. Kerrigan was formerly a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch & Co., including the following responsibilities: Managing Director, Institutional Client Division, Western United States. Mr. Kerrigan has been a Director, since 1999, of The BASIC Fund (Bay Area Scholarships for Inner City Children). Mr. Kerrigan has a BA degree from Boston College and is a Chartered Financial Analyst Charterholder.
Drew E. Lawton has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2017 and Chair of the 15(c) Committee of the Trust since 2017. Mr. Lawton has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc., a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust, and Chair of the 15(c) Committee of each Board since 2017. Mr. Lawton also served as an Advisory Board Member of the Trust, iShares, Inc. and iShares U.S. ETF Trust from 2016 to 2017. Mr. Lawton served as Director of Principal Funds, Inc., Principal Variable Contracts Funds, Inc. and Principal Exchange-Traded Funds from March 2016 to October 2016. Mr. Lawton served in various capacities at New York Life Insurance Company from 2010 to 2015, most recently as a Senior Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of New York Life Investment Management. From 2008 to 2010, Mr. Lawton was the President of Fridson Investment Advisors, LLC. Mr. Lawton previously held multiple roles at Fidelity Investments from 1997 to 2008. Mr. Lawton has a BA degree in Administrative Science from Yale University and an MBA from University of North Texas.
John E. Martinez has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2003 and Chair of the Securities Lending Committee of the Trust since 2019. Mr. Martinez has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. since 2003, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, and Chair of the Securities Lending Committee of each Board since 2019. Mr. Martinez served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. Mr. Martinez is a Director of Real Estate Equity Exchange, Inc., providing governance oversight and consulting services to this privately held firm that develops products and strategies for homeowners in managing the equity in their homes. Mr. Martinez currently serves as a Board member for the Cloudera Foundation, whose mission is to apply Cloudera’s data science expertise and discipline to solve global social problems. Mr. Martinez previously served as Director of Barclays Global Investors (“BGI”) UK Holdings, where he provided governance oversight representing BGI’s shareholders (Barclays PLC, BGI management shareholders) through oversight of BGI’s worldwide activities. Mr. Martinez also previously served as Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Global Index and Markets Group of BGI, Chairman of Barclays Global Investor Services and Chief Executive Officer of the Capital Markets Group of BGI. From 2003 to 2012, he was a Director and Executive Committee Member for Larkin Street Youth Services, providing governance oversight and strategy development to an agency that provides emergency and transitional housing, healthcare, education, job and life skills training to homeless youth. He now serves on the Larkin Street Honorary Board. From 2012 to 2016, Mr. Martinez served as a Director for Reading Partners, an organization committed to making all children literate through one-on-one tutoring of students in grades K-4 who are not yet reading at grade level. Mr. Martinez has an AB degree in economics from The University of California, Berkeley and holds an MBA degree in finance and statistics from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Madhav V. Rajan has been a Trustee of the Trust since 2011 and Chair of the Fixed Income Plus Committee of the Trust since 2019. Mr. Rajan has also served as a Director of iShares, Inc. and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, and Chair of the Fixed Income Plus Committee of each Board since 2019. Mr. Rajan served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2011 to 2015. Mr. Rajan is the Dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and also serves as Chair of the Board for the Center for Research in Security Prices, LLC, an affiliate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business since 2020. From 2001 to 2017, Mr. Rajan was the Robert K. Jaedicke Professor of Accounting at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. In April 2017, he received the school’s Robert T. Davis Award for Lifetime Achievement and Service. He has taught accounting for over 25 years to undergraduate, MBA and law students, as well as to senior executives. From 2010 to 2016, Mr. Rajan served as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and head of the MBA Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Mr. Rajan served as editor of “The Accounting Review” from 2002 to 2008 and is co-author of “Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis,” a leading cost accounting textbook. From 2013 to 2018, Mr. Rajan served on the Board of Directors of Cavium Inc., a semiconductor company. Mr. Rajan holds MS and PhD degrees in Accounting from Carnegie Mellon University.
Board – Leadership Structure and Oversight Responsibilities
43

 


Overall responsibility for oversight of the Fund rests with the Board. The Board has engaged BFA to manage the Fund on a day-to-day basis. The Board is responsible for overseeing BFA and other service providers in the operations of the Fund in accordance with the provisions of the 1940 Act, applicable provisions of state and other laws and the Trust’s charter. The Board is currently composed of nine members, seven of whom are Independent Trustees. The Board currently conducts regular in person meetings four times a year. In addition, the Board frequently holds special in person or telephonic meetings or informal conference calls to discuss specific matters that may arise or require action between regular meetings. The Independent Trustees meet regularly outside the presence of management, in executive session or with other service providers to the Trust.
The Board has appointed an Independent Trustee to serve in the role of Board Chair. The Board Chair’s role is to preside at all meetings of the Board and to act as a liaison with service providers, officers, attorneys, and other Trustees generally between meetings. The Board Chair may also perform such other functions as may be delegated by the Board from time to time. The Board has established seven standing Committees: a Nominating and Governance Committee, an Audit Committee, a 15(c) Committee, a Securities Lending Committee, a Risk Committee, an Equity Plus Committee and a Fixed Income Plus Committee to assist the Board in the oversight and direction of the business and affairs of the Fund, and from time to time the Board may establish ad hoc committees or informal working groups to review and address the policies and practices of the Fund with respect to certain specified matters. The Chair of each standing Committee is an Independent Trustee. The role of the Chair of each Committee is to preside at all meetings of the Committee and to act as a liaison with service providers, officers, attorneys and other Trustees between meetings. Each standing Committee meets regularly to conduct the oversight functions delegated to the Committee by the Board and reports its finding to the Board. The Board and each standing Committee conduct annual assessments of their oversight function and structure. The Board has determined that the Board’s leadership structure is appropriate because it allows the Board to exercise independent judgment over management and it allocates areas of responsibility among committees of Independent Trustees and the full Board to enhance effective oversight.
Day-to-day risk management with respect to the Fund is the responsibility of BFA or other service providers (depending on the nature of the risk), subject to the supervision of BFA. The Fund is subject to a number of risks, including investment, compliance, operational, reputational, counterparty and valuation risks, among others. While there are a number of risk management functions performed by BFA and other service providers, as applicable, it is not possible to identify and eliminate all of the risks applicable to the Fund. The Trustees have an oversight role in this area, satisfying themselves that risk management processes and controls are in place and operating effectively. Risk oversight forms part of the Board’s general oversight of the Fund and is addressed as part of various Board and committee activities. In some cases, risk management issues are specifically addressed in presentations and discussions. For example, BFA has an independent dedicated Risk and Quantitative Analysis Group (“RQA”) that assists BFA in managing fiduciary and corporate risks, including investment, operational, counterparty credit and enterprise risk. Representatives of RQA meet with the Board to discuss their analysis and methodologies, as well as specific risk topics such as operational and counterparty risks relating to the Fund. The Board, directly or through a committee, also reviews reports from, among others, management and the independent registered public accounting firm for the Trust, as appropriate, regarding risks faced by the Fund and management’s risk functions. The Board has appointed a Chief Compliance Officer who oversees the implementation and testing of the Trust's compliance program, including assessments by independent third parties, and reports to the Board regarding compliance matters for the Trust and its principal service providers. In testing and maintaining the compliance program, the Chief Compliance Officer (and his or her delegates) assesses key compliance risks affecting the Fund, and addresses them in periodic reports to the Board. In addition, the Audit Committee meets with both the Fund's independent registered public accounting firm and BFA’s internal audit group to review risk controls in place that support the Fund as well as test results. Board oversight of risk is also performed as needed between meetings through communications between BFA and the Board. The Independent Trustees have engaged independent legal counsel to assist them in performing their oversight responsibilities. From time to time, the Board may modify the manner in which it conducts risk oversight. The Board’s oversight role does not make it a guarantor of the Fund's investment performance or other activities.
Committees of the Board of Trustees.  The members of the Audit Committee are Richard L. Fagnani (Chair), John E. Kerrigan and Madhav V. Rajan, each of whom is an Independent Trustee. The purposes of the Audit Committee are to assist the Board (i) in its oversight of the Trust's accounting and financial reporting principles and policies and related controls and procedures maintained by or on behalf of the Trust; (ii) in its oversight of the Trust's financial statements and the independent audit thereof; (iii) in selecting, evaluating and, where deemed appropriate, replacing the independent accountants (or nominating the independent accountants to be proposed for shareholder approval in any proxy statement); (iv) in evaluating the independence of the independent accountants; (v) in complying with legal and regulatory requirements
44

 


that relate to the Trust's accounting and financial reporting, internal controls, compliance controls and independent audits; and (vi) to assume such other responsibilities as may be delegated by the Board. The Audit Committee met eight times during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019.
The members of the Nominating and Governance Committee are John E. Kerrigan (Chair), Madhav V. Rajan and Drew E. Lawton, each of whom is an Independent Trustee. The Nominating and Governance Committee nominates individuals for Independent Trustee membership on the Board and recommends appointments to the Advisory Board. The Nominating and Governance Committee functions include, but are not limited to, the following: (i) reviewing the qualifications of any person properly identified or nominated to serve as an Independent Trustee; (ii) recommending to the Board and current Independent Trustees the nominee(s) for appointment as an Independent Trustee by the Board and current Independent Trustees and/or for election as Independent Trustees by shareholders to fill any vacancy for a position of Independent Trustee(s) on the Board; (iii) recommending to the Board and current Independent Trustees the size and composition of the Board and Board committees and whether they comply with applicable laws and regulations; (iv) recommending a current Independent Trustee to the Board and current Independent Trustees to serve as Board Chair; (v) periodic review of the Board's retirement policy; and (vi) recommending an appropriate level of compensation for the Independent Trustees for their services as Trustees, members or chairpersons of committees of the Board, Board Chair and any other positions as the Nominating and Governance Committee considers appropriate. The Nominating and Governance Committee does not consider Board nominations recommended by shareholders (acting solely in their capacity as a shareholder and not in any other capacity). The Nominating and Governance Committee met one time during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019.
Each Independent Trustee serves on the 15(c) Committee. The Chair of the 15(c) Committee is Drew E. Lawton. The principal responsibilities of the 15(c) Committee are to support, oversee and organize on behalf of the Board the process for the annual review and renewal of the Trust's advisory and sub-advisory agreements. These responsibilities include: (i) meeting with BlackRock, Inc. in advance of the Board meeting at which the Trust's advisory and sub-advisory agreements are to be considered to discuss generally the process for providing requested information to the Board and the format in which information will be provided; and (ii) considering and discussing with BlackRock, Inc. such other matters and information as may be necessary and appropriate for the Board to evaluate the investment advisory and sub-advisory agreements of the Trust. The 15(c) Committee met three times during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019.
The members of the Securities Lending Committee are John E. Martinez (Chair), Jane D. Carlin and Drew E. Lawton, each of whom is an Independent Trustee. The principal responsibilities of the Securities Lending Committee are to support, oversee and organize on behalf of the Board the process for oversight of the Trust's securities lending activities. These responsibilities include: (i) requesting that certain information be provided to the Committee for its review and consideration prior to such information being provided to the Board; (ii) considering and discussing with BlackRock, Inc. such other matters and information as may be necessary and appropriate for the Board to oversee the Trust's securities lending activities and make required findings and approvals; and (iii) providing a recommendation to the Board regarding the annual approval of the Trust's Securities Lending Guidelines and the required findings with respect to, and annual approval of, the Trust's agreement with the securities lending agent. The Securities Lending Committee met six times during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019.
The members of the Equity Plus Committee are John E. Kerrigan (Chair), John E. Martinez and Drew E. Lawton, each of whom is an Independent Trustee. The principal responsibilities of the Equity Plus Committee are to support, oversee and organize on behalf of the Board the process for oversight of Trust performance and related matters for equity funds. These responsibilities include: (i) reviewing quarterly reports regarding Trust performance, secondary market trading and changes in net assets to identify any matters that should be brought to the attention of the Board; and (ii) considering any performance or investment related matters as may be delegated to the Committee by the Board from time to time and providing a report or recommendation to the Board as appropriate. The Equity Plus Committee met four times during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019.
The members of the Fixed Income Plus Committee are Madhav V. Rajan (Chair), Jane D. Carlin and Richard L. Fagnani, each of whom is an Independent Trustee. The principal responsibilities of the Fixed Income Plus Committee are to support, oversee and organize on behalf of the Board the process for oversight of Trust performance and related matters for fixed-income or multi-asset funds. These responsibilities include: (i) reviewing quarterly reports regarding Trust performance, secondary market trading and changes in net assets to identify any matters that should be brought to the attention of the Board; and (ii) considering any performance or investment related matters as may be delegated to the Committee by the
45

 


Board from time to time and providing a report or recommendation to the Board as appropriate. The Fixed Income Plus Committee met four times during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019.
The members of the Risk Committee are Jane D. Carlin (Chair), Richard L. Fagnani and John E. Martinez, each of whom is an Independent Trustee. The principal responsibility of the Risk Committee is to consider and organize on behalf of the Board risk related matters of the Fund so the Board may most effectively structure itself to oversee them. The Risk Committee commenced on January 1, 2016. The Risk Committee met eight times during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019.
As the Chair of the Board, Cecilia H. Herbert may serve as an ex-officio member of each Committee.
The following table sets forth, as of December 31, 2019, the dollar range of equity securities beneficially owned by each Trustee in the Fund and in other registered investment companies overseen by the Trustee within the same family of investment companies as the Trust. If a fund is not listed below, the Trustee did not own any securities in that fund as of the date indicated above:
Name   Fund   Dollar Range of Equity
Securities in Named Fund
  Aggregate Dollar Range
of Equity Securities in all
Registered Investment
Companies Overseen by
Trustee
in Family of
Investment Companies
Robert S. Kapito   None   None   None
             
Salim Ramji1   iShares Commodities Select Strategy ETF   $10,001-$50,000   Over $100,000
    iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Core MSCI Total International Stock ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares Core S&P 500 ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares Expanded Tech Sector ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares Expanded Tech-Software Sector ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares North American Natural Resources ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Multisector ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares TIPS Bond ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
             
Cecilia H. Herbert   iShares California Muni Bond ETF   Over $100,000   Over $100,000
    iShares China Large-Cap ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares Core MSCI Total International Stock ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Core S&P 500 ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Core S&P U.S. Growth ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares Core S&P U.S. Value ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares International Select Dividend ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares MSCI EAFE ETF   $1-$10,000    
46

 


Name   Fund   Dollar Range of Equity
Securities in Named Fund
  Aggregate Dollar Range
of Equity Securities in all
Registered Investment
Companies Overseen by
Trustee
in Family of
Investment Companies
    iShares MSCI Japan ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares National Muni Bond ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Preferred and Income Securities ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
             
Jane D. Carlin   iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF   $50,001-$100,000   Over $100,000
    iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Core MSCI Total International Stock ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Edge MSCI Min Vol USA ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares Global Tech ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares MSCI ACWI ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares MSCI ACWI ex U.S. ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares MSCI EAFE Small-Cap ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Small-Cap ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Select Dividend ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Ultra Short-Term Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
             
Richard L. Fagnani   iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF   $10,001-$50,000   Over $100,000
    iShares Core S&P 500 ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Edge MSCI Multifactor Emerging Markets ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Edge MSCI USA Value Factor ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Exponential Technologies ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Global Clean Energy ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares MSCI EAFE Value ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Small-Cap ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Multisector ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares S&P Small-Cap 600 Value ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares Select Dividend ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
    iShares U.S. Financials ETF   $10,001-$50,000    
             
John E. Kerrigan   iShares MSCI ACWI ex U.S. ETF   Over $100,000   Over $100,000
             
47

 


Name   Fund   Dollar Range of Equity
Securities in Named Fund
  Aggregate Dollar Range
of Equity Securities in all
Registered Investment
Companies Overseen by
Trustee
in Family of
Investment Companies
Drew E. Lawton   iShares 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond ETF   Over $100,000   Over $100,000
    iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares Core MSCI Total International Stock ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Exponential Technologies ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF   $1-$10,000    
    iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF   $50,001-$100,000    
    iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Ultra Short-Term Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
             
John E. Martinez   iShares Core 5-10 Year USD Bond ETF   Over $100,000   Over $100,000
    iShares Core International Aggregate Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Global Consumer Staples ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Interest Rate Hedged Long-Term Corporate Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Intermediate-Term Corporate Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares MSCI EAFE ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Russell 1000 ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Russell 1000 Value ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Russell 2000 ETF   Over $100,000    
             
Madhav V. Rajan   iShares Broad USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF   Over $100,000   Over $100,000
    iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Core High Dividend ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Core S&P 500 ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Mortgage Real Estate ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Preferred and Income Securities ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Russell 2000 ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Select Dividend ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Short-Term Corporate Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF   Over $100,000    
    iShares Ultra Short-Term Bond ETF   Over $100,000    

1 Appointed to serve as an Interested Trustee effective June 19, 2019.
As of December 31, 2019, none of the Independent Trustees or their immediate family members owned beneficially or of record any securities of BFA (the Fund's investment adviser), the Distributor or any person controlling, controlled by or under common control with BFA or the Distributor.
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Remuneration of Trustees and Advisory Board Members.  Effective January 1, 2020, each current Independent Trustee is paid an annual retainer of $395,000 for his or her services as a Board member to the BlackRock-advised Funds in the Exchange-Traded Fund Complex, together with out-of-pocket expenses in accordance with the Board’s policy on travel and other business expenses relating to attendance at meetings. The annual retainer for services as an Advisory Board Member is the same as the annual retainer for services as a Board member.  The Independent Chair of the Board is paid an additional annual retainer of $80,000. The Chair of each of the Equity Plus Committee, Fixed Income Plus Committee, Securities Lending Committee, Risk Committee, Nominating and Governance Committee and 15(c) Committee is paid an additional annual retainer of $25,000. The Chair of the Audit Committee is paid an additional annual retainer of $40,000. Each Independent Trustee that served as a director of subsidiaries of the Exchange-Traded Fund Complex is paid an additional annual retainer of $10,000 (plus an additional $1,765 paid annually to compensate for taxes due in the Republic of Mauritius in connection with such Trustee’s service on the boards of certain Mauritius-based subsidiaries).
The table below sets forth the compensation earned by each Independent Trustee and Interested Trustee for services to the Fund for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019 and the aggregate compensation paid to them for services to the Exchange-Traded Fund Complex for the calendar year ended December 31, 2019.
Name   iShares ESG Advanced MSCI
EM
ETF
  Pension or
Retirement Benefits
Accrued As Part
of Trust Expenses1
  Estimated
Annual Benefits
Upon Retirement1
  Total
Compensation

From the Fund
and Fund Complex2
Independent Trustees:                
                 
Jane D. Carlin   $0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   $395,000
Richard L. Fagnani   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   421,764
Cecilia H. Herbert   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   450,000
John E. Kerrigan   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   420,000
Drew E. Lawton   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   406,764
John E. Martinez   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   395,000
Madhav V. Rajan   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   395,000
                 
Interested Trustees:                
                 
Robert S. Kapito   $0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   $0
Salim Ramji3   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   0
Mark K. Wiedman4   0   Not Applicable   Not Applicable   0

1 No Trustee or officer is entitled to any pension or retirement benefits from the Trust.
2 Also includes compensation for service on the Board of Trustees of iShares U.S. ETF Trust and the Board of Directors of iShares, Inc.
3 Appointed to serve as an Interested Trustee effective June 19, 2019.
4 Served as an Interested Trustee through June 19, 2019.
Control Persons and Principal Holders of Securities.  Ownership information is not provided for the Fund, as it has not commenced operations as of the date of this SAI.
Potential Conflicts of Interest.  Certain activities of BFA, BlackRock, Inc. and the other subsidiaries of BlackRock, Inc. (collectively referred to in this section as “BlackRock”) and their respective directors, officers and employees, with respect to the Fund and/or other accounts managed by BlackRock, may give rise to actual or perceived conflicts of interest such as those described below.
BlackRock is one of the world's largest asset management firms. BlackRock, its subsidiaries and their respective directors, officers and employees, including, the business units or entities and personnel who may be involved in the investment activities and business operations of the Fund, are engaged worldwide in businesses, including managing equities, fixed-income securities, cash and alternative investments, and have interests other than that of managing the Fund. These are considerations of which investors in the Fund should be aware, and which may cause conflicts of interest that could
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disadvantage the Fund and its shareholders. These businesses and interests include potential multiple advisory, financial and other relationships with, or interests in, companies and interests in securities or other instruments that may be purchased or sold by the Fund.
BlackRock has proprietary interests in, and may manage or advise with respect to, accounts or funds (including separate accounts and other funds and collective investment vehicles) that have investment objectives similar to those of the Fund and/or that engage in transactions in the same types of securities, currencies and instruments as the Fund. BlackRock is also a major participant in the global currency, equities, swap and fixed income markets, in each case, for the accounts of clients and, in some cases, on a proprietary basis. As such, BlackRock is or may be actively engaged in transactions in the same securities, currencies, and instruments in which the Fund invests. Such activities could affect the prices and availability of the securities, currencies, and instruments in which the Fund invests, which could have an adverse impact on the Fund's performance. Such transactions, particularly in respect of most proprietary accounts or client accounts, will be executed independently of the Fund's transactions and thus at prices or rates that may be more or less favorable than those obtained by the Fund.
When BlackRock seeks to purchase or sell the same assets for managed accounts, including the Fund, the assets actually purchased or sold may be allocated among the accounts on a basis determined in its good faith discretion to be equitable. In some cases, this system may adversely affect the size or price of the assets purchased or sold for the Fund. In addition, transactions in investments by one or more other accounts managed by BlackRock may have the effect of diluting or otherwise disadvantaging the values, prices or investment strategies of the Fund, particularly, but not limited to, with respect to small-capitalization, emerging market or less liquid strategies. This may occur with respect to BlackRock-advised accounts when investment decisions regarding the Fund are based on research or other information that is also used to support decisions for other accounts. When BlackRock implements a portfolio decision or strategy on behalf of another account ahead of, or contemporaneously with, similar decisions or strategies for the Fund, market impact, liquidity constraints, or other factors could result in the Fund receiving less favorable trading results and the costs of implementing such decisions or strategies could be increased or the Fund could otherwise be disadvantaged. BlackRock may, in certain cases, elect to implement internal policies and procedures designed to limit such consequences, which may cause the Fund to be unable to engage in certain activities, including purchasing or disposing of securities, when it might otherwise be desirable for it to do so.
Conflicts may also arise because portfolio decisions regarding the Fund may benefit other accounts managed by BlackRock. For example, the sale of a long position or establishment of a short position by the Fund may impair the price of the same security sold short by (and therefore benefit) BlackRock or its other accounts or funds, and the purchase of a security or covering of a short position in a security by the Fund may increase the price of the same security held by (and therefore benefit) BlackRock or its other accounts or funds. In addition, to the extent permitted by applicable law, the Fund may invest its assets in other funds advised by BlackRock, including funds that are managed by one or more of the same portfolio managers, which could result in conflicts of interest relating to asset allocation, timing of Fund purchases and redemptions, and increased remuneration and profitability for BlackRock, and/or its personnel, including portfolio managers.
In certain circumstances, BlackRock, on behalf of the Fund, may seek to buy from or sell securities to another fund or account advised by BlackRock. BlackRock may (but is not required to) effect purchases and sales between BlackRock clients (“cross trades”), including the Fund, if BlackRock believes such transactions are appropriate based on each party's investment objectives and guidelines, subject to applicable law and regulation. There may be potential conflicts of interest or regulatory issues relating to these transactions which could limit BlackRock’s decision to engage in these transactions for the Fund. BlackRock may have a potentially conflicting division of loyalties and responsibilities to the parties in such transactions. On any occasion when the Fund participates in a cross trade, BlackRock will comply with procedures adopted under applicable rules and SEC guidance.
BlackRock and its clients may pursue or enforce rights with respect to an issuer in which the Fund has invested, and those activities may have an adverse effect on the Fund. As a result, prices, availability, liquidity and terms of the Fund's investments may be negatively impacted by the activities of BlackRock or its clients, and transactions for the Fund may be impaired or effected at prices or terms that may be less favorable than would otherwise have been the case.
The results of the Fund’s investment activities may differ significantly from the results achieved by BlackRock for its proprietary accounts or other accounts (including investment companies or collective investment vehicles) which it manages or advises. It is possible that one or more accounts managed or advised by BlackRock and such other accounts will achieve
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investment results that are substantially more or less favorable than the results achieved by the Fund. Moreover, it is possible that the Fund will sustain losses during periods in which one or more proprietary or other accounts managed or advised by BlackRock achieve significant profits. The opposite result is also possible.
From time to time, the Fund may be restricted from purchasing or selling securities, or from engaging in other investment activities because of regulatory, legal or contractual requirements applicable to BlackRock or other accounts managed or advised by BlackRock, and/or the internal policies of BlackRock designed to comply with such requirements. As a result, there may be periods, for example, when BlackRock will not initiate or recommend certain types of transactions in certain securities or instruments with respect to which BlackRock is performing services or when position limits have been reached. For example, the investment activities of BlackRock for its proprietary accounts and accounts under its management may limit the investment opportunities for the Fund in certain emerging and other markets in which limitations are imposed upon the amount of investment, in the aggregate or in individual issuers, by affiliated foreign investors.
In connection with its management of the Fund, BlackRock may have access to certain fundamental analysis and proprietary technical models developed by BlackRock. BlackRock will not be under any obligation, however, to effect transactions on behalf of the Fund in accordance with such analysis and models. In addition, BlackRock will not have any obligation to make available any information regarding its proprietary activities or strategies, or the activities or strategies used for other accounts managed by them, for the benefit of the management of the Fund and it is not anticipated that BlackRock will have access to such information for the purpose of managing the Fund. The proprietary activities or portfolio strategies of BlackRock, or the activities or strategies used for accounts managed by BlackRock or other client accounts could conflict with the transactions and strategies employed by BlackRock in managing the Fund.
The Fund may be included in investment models developed by BlackRock for use by clients and financial advisors. To the extent clients invest in these investment models and increase the assets under management of the Fund, the investment management fee amounts paid by the Fund to BlackRock may also increase. The price, availability and liquidity of the Fund may be impacted by purchases and redemptions of the Fund by model-driven investment portfolios.
In addition, certain principals and certain employees of the Fund’s investment adviser are also principals or employees of other business units or entities within BlackRock. As a result, these principals and employees may have obligations to such other business units or entities or their clients and such obligations to other business units or entities or their clients may be a consideration of which investors in the Fund should be aware.
BlackRock may enter into transactions and invest in securities, instruments and currencies on behalf of the Fund in which clients of BlackRock or, to the extent permitted by the SEC and applicable law, BlackRock serves as the counterparty, principal or issuer. In such cases, such party's interests in the transaction will be adverse to the interests of the Fund, and such party may have no incentive to assure that the Fund obtains the best possible prices or terms in connection with the transactions. In addition, the purchase, holding and sale of such investments by the Fund may enhance the profitability of BlackRock.
BlackRock may also create, write or issue derivatives for clients, the underlying securities, currencies or instruments in which the Fund may invest or which may be based on the performance of the Fund. BlackRock has entered into an arrangement with Markit Indices Limited, the index provider for underlying fixed-income indexes used by certain iShares funds, related to derivative fixed-income products that are based on such iShares funds. BlackRock will receive certain payments for licensing intellectual property belonging to BlackRock and for facilitating the provision of data in connection with such derivative products, which may include payments based on the trading volumes of, or revenues generated by, the derivative products. Other funds and accounts managed by BlackRock may from time to time transact in such derivative products, which could contribute to the viability of such derivative products by making them more appealing to funds and accounts managed by third parties, and in turn lead to increased payments to BlackRock. Trading activity in such derivative products could also potentially lead to increased purchase activity with respect to these iShares funds and increased assets under management for BlackRock.
The Fund may, subject to applicable law, purchase investments that are the subject of an underwriting or other distribution by BlackRock and may also enter into transactions with other clients of BlackRock where such other clients have interests adverse to those of the Fund.
At times, these activities may cause business units or entities within BlackRock to give advice to clients that may cause these clients to take actions adverse to the interests of the Fund. To the extent such transactions are permitted, the Fund will deal with BlackRock on an arm’s-length basis.
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To the extent authorized by applicable law, BlackRock may act as broker, dealer, agent, lender or adviser or in other commercial capacities for the Fund. It is anticipated that the commissions, mark-ups, mark-downs, financial advisory fees, underwriting and placement fees, sales fees, financing and commitment fees, brokerage fees, other fees, compensation or profits, rates, terms and conditions charged by BlackRock will be in its view commercially reasonable, although BlackRock, including its sales personnel, will have an interest in obtaining fees and other amounts that are favorable to BlackRock and such sales personnel, which may have an adverse effect on the Fund. Index based funds may use an index provider that is affiliated with another service provider of the Fund or BlackRock that acts as a broker, dealer, agent, lender or in other commercial capacities for the Fund or BlackRock.
Subject to applicable law, BlackRock (and its personnel and other distributors) will be entitled to retain fees and other amounts that they receive in connection with their service to the Fund as broker, dealer, agent, lender, adviser or in other commercial capacities. No accounting to the Fund or its shareholders will be required, and no fees or other compensation payable by the Fund or its shareholders will be reduced by reason of receipt by BlackRock of any such fees or other amounts.
When BlackRock acts as broker, dealer, agent, adviser or in other commercial capacities in relation to the Fund, BlackRock may take commercial steps in its own interests, which may have an adverse effect on the Fund. The Fund will be required to establish business relationships with its counterparties based on the Fund's own credit standing. BlackRock will not have any obligation to allow its credit to be used in connection with the Fund's establishment of its business relationships, nor is it expected that the Fund's counterparties will rely on the credit of BlackRock in evaluating the Fund's creditworthiness.
BTC, an affiliate of BFA pursuant to SEC exemptive relief, acts as securities lending agent to, and receives a share of securities lending revenues from, the Fund. BlackRock will also receive compensation for managing the reinvestment of the cash collateral from securities lending. There are potential conflicts of interests in managing a securities lending program, including but not limited to: (i) BlackRock as securities lending agent may have an incentive to increase or decrease the amount of securities on loan or to lend particular securities in order to generate additional risk-adjusted revenue for BlackRock and its affiliates; and (ii) BlackRock as securities lending agent may have an incentive to allocate loans to clients that would provide more revenue to BlackRock. As described further below, BlackRock seeks to mitigate this conflict by providing its securities lending clients with equal lending opportunities over time in order to approximate pro rata allocation.
As part of its securities lending program, BlackRock indemnifies certain clients and/or funds against a shortfall in collateral in the event of borrower default. BlackRock’s RQA calculates, on a regular basis, BlackRock’s potential dollar exposure to the risk of collateral shortfall upon counterparty default (“shortfall risk”) under the securities lending program for both indemnified and non-indemnified clients. On a periodic basis, RQA also determines the maximum amount of potential indemnified shortfall risk arising from securities lending activities (“indemnification exposure limit”) and the maximum amount of counterparty-specific credit exposure (“credit limits”) BlackRock is willing to assume as well as the program’s operational complexity. RQA oversees the risk model that calculates projected shortfall values using loan-level factors such as loan and collateral type and market value as well as specific borrower counterparty credit characteristics. When necessary, RQA may further adjust other securities lending program attributes by restricting eligible collateral or reducing counterparty credit limits. As a result, the management of the indemnification exposure limit may affect the amount of securities lending activity BlackRock may conduct at any given point in time and impact indemnified and non-indemnified clients by reducing the volume of lending opportunities for certain loans (including by asset type, collateral type and/or revenue profile).
BlackRock uses a predetermined systematic process in order to approximate pro rata allocation over time. In order to allocate a loan to a portfolio: (i) BlackRock as a whole must have sufficient lending capacity pursuant to the various program limits (i.e., indemnification exposure limit and counterparty credit limits); (ii) the lending portfolio must hold the asset at the time a loan opportunity arrives; and (iii) the lending portfolio must also have enough inventory, either on its own or when aggregated with other portfolios into one single market delivery, to satisfy the loan request. In doing so, BlackRock seeks to provide equal lending opportunities for all portfolios, independent of whether BlackRock indemnifies the portfolio. Equal opportunities for lending portfolios does not guarantee equal outcomes. Specifically, short and long-term outcomes for individual clients may vary due to asset mix, asset/liability spreads on different securities, and the overall limits imposed by the firm.
Purchases and sales of securities and other assets for the Fund may be bunched or aggregated with orders for other BlackRock client accounts, including with accounts that pay different transaction costs solely due to the fact that they have different research payment arrangements. BlackRock, however, is not required to bunch or aggregate orders if portfolio
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