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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from                          to                       

001-32492

(Commission File Number)

 

LAZARD LTD

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

Bermuda

98-0437848

(State or Other Jurisdiction of Incorporation

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

or Organization)

 

Clarendon House

2 Church Street

Hamilton HM11, Bermuda

(Address of principal executive offices)

Registrant’s telephone number: (441) 295-1422

 

 

Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

Trading Symbol(s)

Name of each exchange on which registered

Class A Common Stock

LAZ

New York Stock Exchange

 

Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act.    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer

Smaller reporting company

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

If the Registrant is an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the Registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).    Yes      No  

The aggregate market value of the common stock held by non-affiliates of the Registrant as of June 30, 2020 was approximately $2,946,212,351.

As of January 29, 2021, there were 112,766,091 shares of the Registrant’s Class A common stock outstanding (including 8,466,856 shares held by subsidiaries).

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the Registrant’s proxy statement for its 2021 annual general meeting of shareholders are incorporated by reference in this Form 10-K in response to Part III Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.

 

 

 

 

 


 

LAZARD LTD

ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K

FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2020

INDEX

 

Form 10-K Item Number

 

Page No.

 

 

 

 

PART I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

Business

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Officers of the Registrant

 

14

 

 

 

 

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

 

16

 

 

 

 

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

35

 

 

 

 

Item 2.

Properties

 

36

 

 

 

 

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

 

36

 

 

 

 

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

36

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases
of Equity Securities

 

37

 

 

 

 

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

 

39

 

 

 

 

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

40

 

 

 

 

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

70

 

 

 

 

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

71

 

 

 

 

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

134

 

 

 

 

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

 

134

 

 

 

 

Item 9B.

Other Information

 

134

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

135

 

 

 

 

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

 

135

 

 

 

 

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related
Stockholder Matters

 

135

 

 

 

 

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

136

 

 

 

 

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

136

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

 

137

 

 

 

 

 

Index to Financial Statements and Financial Statement Schedule Items 15(a)(1) and 15(a)(2)

 

F-1

 

 

 

SIGNATURES

 

II-1

 

 

 

i


 

Part I

When we use the terms “Lazard”, “we”, “us”, “our” and “the Company”, we mean Lazard Ltd, a company incorporated under the laws of Bermuda, and its subsidiaries, including Lazard Group LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (“Lazard Group”), that is the current holding company for our businesses. Lazard Ltd’s primary operating asset is its indirect ownership as of December 31, 2020 of all of the common membership interests in Lazard Group and its controlling interest in Lazard Group. When we use the term “common stock”, we mean Class A common stock of Lazard Ltd, the only class of common stock of Lazard outstanding.

Item 1.

Business

Lazard is one of the world’s preeminent financial advisory and asset management firms. We have long specialized in crafting solutions to the complex financial and strategic challenges of a diverse set of clients around the world, including corporations, governments, institutions, partnerships and individuals. Founded in 1848 in New Orleans, we currently operate from more than 40 cities and 25 countries across key business and financial centers in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Central and South America.

Principal Business Lines

We focus primarily on two business segments: Financial Advisory and Asset Management. We believe that the mix of our activities across business segments, geographic regions, industries and investment strategies helps to diversify and stabilize our revenue stream.

Financial Advisory

Our Financial Advisory business offers corporate, partnership, institutional, government, sovereign and individual clients across the globe a wide array of financial advisory services regarding mergers and acquisitions (“M&A”), capital advisory, restructurings, shareholder advisory, sovereign advisory, capital raising and other strategic advisory matters. We focus on solving our clients’ most complex issues, providing advice to key decision-makers, senior management, boards of directors and business owners, as well as governments and governmental agencies, in transactions that typically are of significant strategic and financial importance to them.

We continue to build our Financial Advisory business by fostering long-term, senior-level relationships with existing and new clients as their independent advisor on strategic transactions and other matters. We seek to build and sustain long-term relationships with our clients rather than focusing simply on individual transactions, a practice that we believe enhances our access to senior management of major corporations and institutions around the world. We emphasize providing clients with senior-level focus during all phases of transaction analysis and execution.

While we strive to earn repeat business from our clients, we operate in a highly competitive environment in which there are no long-term contracted sources of revenue. Each revenue-generating engagement is separately negotiated and awarded. To develop new client relationships, and to develop new engagements from historical client relationships, we maintain an active dialogue with a large number of clients and potential clients, as well as with their financial and legal advisors, on an ongoing basis. We have gained a significant number of new clients each year through our business development initiatives, through recruiting additional senior investment banking professionals who bring with them client relationships and through referrals from directors, attorneys and other third parties with whom we have relationships. At the same time, we lose clients each year as a result of the sale or merger of a client, a change in a client’s senior management, competition from other investment banks and other causes.

We earned $1 million or more from 261 clients for the year ended December 31, 2020. For the year ended December 31, 2020, the ten largest fee paying clients constituted approximately 19% of our Financial Advisory segment net revenue, with no client individually contributing more than 10% of segment net revenue.

We believe that we have been pioneers in offering financial advisory services on an international basis, with the establishment of our New York, Paris and London offices dating back to the nineteenth century. We maintain a major local presence in the United States (the “U.S.”), the United Kingdom (the “U.K.”) and France, including a

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network of regional branch offices in the U.S., as well as a presence in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Middle East region.

In addition to seeking business centered in the regions described above, we historically have focused in particular on advising clients with respect to cross-border transactions. We believe that we are particularly well known for our legacy of offering broad teams of professionals who are indigenous to their respective regions, who have long-term client relationships, capabilities and know-how in their respective regions and who will coordinate with our professionals who have global sector expertise. We also believe that this positioning affords us insight around the globe into key industry, economic, governmental and regulatory issues and developments, which we can bring to bear on behalf of our clients.

Services Offered

We advise clients on a wide range of strategic and financial issues. When we advise clients on the potential acquisition of another company, business or certain assets, our services include evaluating potential acquisition targets, providing valuation analyses, evaluating and proposing financial and structural alternatives and rendering, if appropriate, fairness opinions. We also may advise as to the timing, financing and pricing of a proposed acquisition and assist in negotiating and closing the acquisition. In addition, we may assist in executing an acquisition by acting as a dealer-manager in transactions structured as a tender or exchange offer.

When we advise clients that are contemplating the sale of certain businesses, assets or an entire company, our services include advising on the sale process for the situation, providing valuation analyses, assisting in preparing an information memorandum or other appropriate sale materials and rendering, if appropriate, fairness opinions. We also identify and contact selected qualified potential acquirors and assist in negotiating and closing the proposed sale. As appropriate, we also advise our clients regarding potential financial and strategic alternatives to a sale, including recapitalizations, spin-offs, carve-outs and split-offs. We frequently provide advice with respect to the structure, timing and pricing of these alternatives.

With respect to companies in financial distress, we provide services to the company, creditors or other interested parties, which services may include reviewing and analyzing the business, operations, properties, financial condition and prospects of the company, evaluating debt capacity, assisting in the determination of an appropriate capital structure, assisting in structuring and effecting the financial aspects of exchange offers, evaluating financial and strategic alternatives and assisting and participating in negotiations with affected entities or groups. If appropriate, we may provide financial advice and assistance in developing and seeking approval of a restructuring or reorganization plan, which may include a plan of reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or other similar court administered processes in non-U.S. jurisdictions. In such cases, we may assist in certain aspects of the implementation of such a plan, including advising and assisting in structuring and effecting the financial aspects of a sale or recapitalization, structuring new securities, other consideration or other inducements to be offered or issued, as well as assisting and participating in negotiations with affected entities or groups.

When we assist clients in connection with shareholder advisory and corporate preparedness matters, our services may include reviewing and analyzing the business and financial condition of the company, providing insights on the company’s shareholders, assisting in the evaluation of environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters, and advising on defense measures and strategic alternatives potentially available to the company. Our advice may relate to a broad range of matters including M&A and capital markets transactions and activist situations.

When we assist clients in connection with their capital structure, we typically review and analyze structural alternatives, assist in long-term capital planning and advise and assist with respect to rating agency discussions and relationships, among other things.

When we assist clients in raising private or public market financing or capital, our services include assisting clients in connection with securing, refinancing or restructuring bank loans or other debt, securing venture capital funding, originating and executing, or participating in, public underwritings and private placements of securities,

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and originating and executing private placements of partnership and similar interests in alternative investment funds such as leveraged buyout, mezzanine or real estate focused funds.

We are at the forefront of providing independent advice to governments and governmental agencies in connection with economic developments. Lazard’s Sovereign Advisory Group has advised a number of countries and institutions with respect to sovereign debt and other financial matters.

Staffing

We staff each of our assignments with a team of quality professionals who have appropriate product, industry and geographic expertise. We pride ourselves on, and we believe we differentiate ourselves from our competitors by, being able to offer a high level of attention from senior personnel to our clients and organizing ourselves in such a way that managing directors who are responsible for securing and maintaining client relationships also actively participate in providing related advice and services. Our managing directors have significant experience, and many of them are able to use this experience to advise on M&A, financings, restructurings, capital structure, shareholder advisory and other transactions or financial matters, depending on our clients’ needs. Many of our managing directors and senior employees come from diverse backgrounds, such as senior leadership positions in corporations, government, law and strategic consulting, which we believe enhances our ability to offer sophisticated advice and customized solutions to our clients. As of December 31, 2020, our Financial Advisory segment had 171 managing directors and 1,384 other professionals and support staff.

Industries Served

We seek to offer our services across most major industry groups, including, in many cases, sub-industry specialties. Managing directors and professionals in our M&A practice are organized to provide advice in the following major industry practice areas:

 

consumer;

 

financial institutions;

 

health care and life sciences;

 

industrials;

 

power and energy/infrastructure;

 

real estate; and

 

technology, media and telecommunications.

These groups are managed locally in each relevant geographic region and are coordinated globally, which allows us to bring local industry-specific knowledge to bear on behalf of our clients on a global basis. We believe that this enhances the scope and the quality of the advice that we can offer, which improves our ability to market our capabilities to clients.

In addition to our M&A and Restructuring practices, we also maintain specialties in the following distinct practice areas within our Financial Advisory business:

 

government and sovereign advisory;

 

capital structure and debt advisory;

 

shareholder and corporate preparedness advisory;

 

fundraising and arranging liquidity for third-party alternative investment funds; and

 

corporate finance and other services, including private placements, underwritten offerings related to our Financial Advisory business and transactions involving the exchange or issuance of securities.

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We endeavor to coordinate the activities of the professionals in these areas with our M&A industry specialists in order to offer clients customized teams of cross-functional expertise spanning both industry and practice area expertise.

Strategy

Our focus in our Financial Advisory business is on:

 

investing in our intellectual capital through senior professionals who we believe have strong client relationships and industry expertise;

 

increasing our contacts with existing clients to further enhance our long-term relationships and our efforts in developing new client relationships;

 

developing new client relationships;

 

expanding the breadth and depth of our industry expertise and selectively adding or reinforcing practice areas, such as our Capital Advisory, Shareholder Advisory and Sovereign Advisory groups;

 

coordinating our industry specialty activities on a global basis and increasing the integration of our industry experts in M&A with our other professionals;

 

selectively bolstering our existing presence in certain local markets;

 

broadening our geographic presence by adding new offices where opportunities arise;

 

investing in our technology infrastructure and data science capabilities to enhance our business; and

 

deploying our intellectual capital, strong client relationships and other assets to generate new revenue streams.

In addition to the investments made as part of this strategy, we believe that our Financial Advisory business may benefit from external market factors, including:

 

demand for independent, sophisticated financial advice;

 

recapitalization and related activities in developed and emerging markets;

 

relatively low interest rates and high corporate cash balances;

 

favorable levels of cross-border M&A and large capitalization M&A, two of our areas of historical specialization; and

 

possible M&A activity that may result from tax, regulatory and similar reform.

Going forward, our strategic emphasis in our Financial Advisory business is to leverage the investments we have made to grow our business and drive our productivity. We continue to seek to opportunistically attract outstanding individuals to our business. We routinely reassess our strategic position and may in the future seek opportunities to further enhance our competitive position.

Asset Management

Our Asset Management business offers a broad range of global investment solutions and investment management services in equity and fixed income strategies, asset allocation strategies, alternative investments and private equity funds to corporations, public funds, sovereign entities, endowments and foundations, labor funds, financial intermediaries and private clients. Our goal in our Asset Management business is to produce superior risk-adjusted investment returns and provide customized investment solutions for our clients through the active management of their portfolios. Our investment teams construct and manage portfolios using various techniques and investment philosophies, including traditional fundamental research and analysis and quantitative tools.

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Our top ten clients accounted for 27% of our total assets under management (“AUM”) for the year ended December 31, 2020, with no client individually contributing more than 10% of our Asset Management segment net revenue. Approximately 87% of our AUM as of December 31, 2020 was managed on behalf of institutional clients, including corporations, labor unions, public pension funds, insurance companies and banks, and through sub-advisory relationships, mutual fund sponsors, broker-dealers and registered advisors, and approximately 13% of our AUM was managed on behalf of individual client relationships, which are principally with family offices and high-net worth individuals.

The charts below illustrate the mix of our AUM as of December 31, 2020, measured by broad product strategy and by office location.

 

 

Our Asset Management business maintains offices in New York, Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Dubai, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Hong Kong, London, Lyon, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, Nantes, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto and Zurich. These operations, with 105 managing directors and 1,012 other professionals and support staff as of December 31, 2020, provide our Asset Management business with both a global presence and a local identity.

Primary distinguishing features of these operations include:

 

a global footprint with global research, global mandates and global clients;

 

a broad-based team of investment professionals, including focused, in-house investment analysts across all products and platforms, many of whom have substantial industry or sector specific expertise; and

 

world-wide brand recognition and multi-channel distribution capabilities.

Our Investment Philosophy, Process and Research    

Our investment philosophy is generally based upon a fundamental security selection approach to investing. Across many of our products, we apply three key principles to investment portfolios:

 

select securities, not markets;

 

evaluate a company’s financial position, outlook, opportunities and risks, together with its valuation; and

 

manage risk.

In searching for investment opportunities, many of our investment professionals follow an investment process that incorporates several interconnected components that may include:

 

fundamental analysis;

 

quantitative analysis;

 

accounting analysis;

 

security selection and portfolio construction;

 

risk management; and

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environmental, social and governance factors.

In our Asset Management business, we conduct investment research on a global basis to develop market, industry and company-specific insights and evaluate investment opportunities. Many of our global equity analysts, located in our worldwide offices, are organized around global industry sectors.

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Investment Strategies    

Our Asset Management business provides equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment strategies to our clients, paying close attention to our clients’ varying and expanding investment needs. We offer the following product platform of investment strategies:

 

 

Global

 

Multi-Regional

 

Local

 

Emerging Markets

Equity

Global

Large Capitalization

Small Capitalization

Thematic

Listed Infrastructure

Quantitative

Multi-Asset

Managed Volatility

Real Assets

Multi-Factor

Sustainable

 

Global Ex

Global Ex-U.K.

Global Ex-Japan

Global Ex-Australia

Global Ex-U.S.

 

Thematic

Robotics

Health

Gender Diversity

 

Pan-European

Large Capitalization

Small Capitalization

Multi-Capitalization Value

Quantitative

 

 

Eurozone

Large Capitalization

Small Capitalization

 

Continental European

Small Capitalization

Multi Capitalization

Eurozone

Euro-Trend (Thematic)

 

Asian

Asia Ex-Japan

Quantitative

 

Europe, Australasia and Far East

Large Capitalization

Small Capitalization

Multi-Capitalization

Quantitative

Sustainable

 

U.S.

Large Capitalization

Small/Mid Capitalization

Multi-Capitalization

Sustainable

Quantitative Small Capitalization

 

U.K.

U.K. (Large Capitalization)

U.K. (Small Capitalization)

U.K. Quantitative

 

France

France (Large Capitalization)

France (Small Capitalization)

 

Asia Pacific

Australia

Japan

 

 

 

Global

Large Capitalization

Small Capitalization

Frontier Equities

Quantitative

Multi-Asset

Managed Volatility

 

Middle East North Africa

Middle East North Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fixed Income and Cash Management

Global

Core/Core Plus

High Yield

Short Duration

Convertibles

 

 

 

Pan-European

Core

High Yield

Cash Management

Duration Overlay

Convertibles

 

Eurozone

Fixed Income

Cash Management

Corporate Bonds

Scandinavian

Short Duration

 

U.S.

Core/Core Plus

High Yield

Short Duration

Municipals

Cash Management

 

Non-U.S.

U.K.

 

 

Global

Emerging Debt

Emerging Corporate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative

Global

Convertibles

Arbitrage/Relative Value

Multi-Asset

Commodities

 

European

Long/Short Equity

 

International

Long/Short Equity

 

U.S.

Quantitative Long/Short Equity

Long/Short Credit

 

Non-U.S.

Japan Long/Short

 

Global

Emerging Income

Emerging Debt

 

 

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In addition to the primary investment strategies listed above, we also provide other asset management services to our clients, including asset allocation and other investment advisory services, as well as locally customized investment solutions. In many cases, we also offer both diversified and more concentrated versions of our products. These products are generally offered on a separate account basis, as well as through pooled vehicles.

Distribution.    We distribute our products through a broad array of marketing channels on a global basis. Marketing, sales and client service efforts are organized through a global market delivery and service network, with distribution professionals located in cities including New York, Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Hong Kong, London, Lyon, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, Nantes, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto and Zurich. We have developed a well-established presence in the institutional asset management arena, managing assets for corporations, labor unions, sovereign wealth funds and public pension funds around the world. In addition, we manage assets for insurance companies, savings and trust banks, endowments, foundations and charities.

We also have become a leading firm in managing mutual funds, sub-advisory funds and separately managed accounts for many of the world’s largest broker-dealers, insurance companies, registered advisors and other financial intermediaries.

Strategy

Our strategic plan in our Asset Management business is to focus on delivering superior investment performance and client service and broadening our product offerings and distribution in selected areas in order to continue to drive improved business results. Over the past several years, in an effort to improve our Asset Management business’ operations and expand our Asset Management business, we have:

 

focused on enhancing our investment performance;

 

improved our investment management platform by adding a number of senior investment professionals (including portfolio managers and analysts);

 

continued to strengthen our marketing and consultant relations capabilities, including by expanding our marketing resources;

 

expanded our product platform, including through the addition of long/short equity strategies, sustainable strategies, quantitative equity strategies, long/short credit capabilities and thematically oriented strategies;

 

invested in our technology infrastructure and data science capabilities to enhance our business; and

 

continued to expand the geographic reach of our Asset Management business, including expanding our offices in Switzerland, Italy and Asia.

We believe that our Asset Management business has long maintained an outstanding team of portfolio managers and global research analysts. We intend to maintain and supplement our intellectual capital to achieve our goals. We routinely reassess our strategic position and may in the future seek acquisitions or other transactions, including the opportunistic hiring of new employees, in order to further enhance our competitive position. We also believe that our specific investment strategies, global reach, unique brand identity and access to multiple distribution channels may allow us to expand into new investment products, strategies and geographic locations. In addition, we may expand our participation in alternative investment activities through investments in new and successor funds, and through organic growth, acquisitions or otherwise. We may also continue to expand our geographic reach where opportunities arise.

We engage in selected alternative investments and private equity activities. In 2009, we established a private equity business with The Edgewater Funds (“Edgewater”), a Chicago-based private equity firm, through the acquisition of Edgewater’s management vehicles. As of December 31, 2020, Edgewater had approximately $1.4 billion of AUM and unfunded fee-earning commitments.

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Historically, Lazard also has made selected investments with its own capital, often alongside capital of qualified institutional and individual investors in connection with Lazard’s selected alternative investments and private equity activities. These investments typically have been organized in funds that make substantial or controlling investments in private or public companies, generally through privately negotiated transactions and with a view to divest within two to seven years. While potentially risky and frequently illiquid, such investments, when successful, can yield investors substantial returns on capital and generate attractive management and performance-based incentive fees for the sponsor of such funds.

Human Capital

We believe that our people are our most important asset. Their talent, integrity and engagement have shaped our success in the past, and they are instrumental to our ability to achieve sustainable growth and deliver value for our shareholders in the future. We strive to create a culture that fosters excellence, collaboration, innovation, empowerment, inclusion and engagement.

Our human capital efforts are overseen by our Board of Directors, with a focus on cultivating a workplace environment that attracts a diversity of perspectives and exceptional talent. In February 2018, after several years of meeting on an ad hoc basis, our Board of Directors formally established its Workplace and Culture Committee to assist and advise management on cultivating and reinforcing a workplace culture that helps attract, motivate and retain talented people; fosters productivity and professional and personal development; values diversity and inclusion; and encourages its people to engage with each other and their communities. The Company has several areas of focus to support these objectives:

Attracting and Retaining Talent. We offer competitive compensation packages to recruit and retain exceptional talent. We offer a variety of employee benefits, including comprehensive health insurance coverage, flexible retirement and health care savings account plans and family planning and support services. We also invest in wellness programs that are broadly inclusive and support varied lifestyles. We further believe that the equity-based portion of our compensation program fosters a greater sense of ownership among our senior employees and aligns their interests with those of our shareholders.

Talent Development. We seek to hire talented and motivated individuals and prioritize their continued education and training. The Company works to support the success and growth of its employees through a collaborative and dynamic 360-degree performance management and review cycle. Furthermore, through investments in technology, we have enhanced knowledge management and collaboration tools across our businesses.

Diversity, Inclusion and Equality. We strive to cultivate a workforce comprised of people with different backgrounds and experiences, which we believe creates an environment of cognitive diversity that promotes new ideas and innovation. We seek to foster diversity through the creation and development of a variety of employee resource groups, which connect our employees with individuals across the firm, contribute to our inclusive culture and provide opportunities for individuals to give back to their communities through volunteering and educational outreach.

Personal Well-Being. The Company invests in the well-being of our employees by offering benefits intended to meet the varied and evolving needs of our diverse workforce across businesses and geographies. The Company addresses this through its Work to Wellness program, a global initiative that educates, motivates and empowers employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle in and out of the workplace. We offer a wide range of resources to support employees and their families’ emotional and financial well-being. We have also made investments in technology that enable remote and hybrid working options.

Community. The Company promotes community engagement through our Work for Good initiative, which supports employee initiatives to volunteer with a variety of local charities. Volunteering through our Work for Good program allows employees to make a positive impact in their communities and share experiences with their colleagues outside of the workplace. In addition to Work for Good, the Company encourages participation in, among others, the Lazard Foundation in the U.S. and Give as You Earn in the U.K., which host additional volunteer opportunities and charitable fundraising events.

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Employees. As of December 31, 2020, we employed approximately 3,100 full-time people based in 40 cities across 25 countries. We operate through two business segments: our Financial Advisory business included 171 managing directors and 1,384 professionals and support staff, and our Asset Management business included 105 managing directors and 1,012 professionals and support staff. Our Corporate segment included 21 managing directors and 413 professionals and support staff. Generally, our employees are not subject to collective bargaining agreements, except that our employees in certain of our offices, including France and Italy, are covered by national, industry-wide collective bargaining agreements. We believe that we have good relations with our employees.

Competition

The financial services industry, and all of the businesses in which we compete, are intensely competitive, and we expect them to remain so. Our competitors are other investment banking and financial advisory firms, broker-dealers, commercial and “universal” banks, insurance companies, investment management firms, hedge fund management firms, alternative investment firms, private banks and other financial institutions. We compete with some of them globally and with others on a regional, product or niche basis. We compete on the basis of a number of factors, including industry and product expertise, innovative insights of our people, transaction execution skills, investment track record, quality of client service, individual and institutional client relationships, absence of conflicts, range and price of products and services, innovation, brand recognition and business reputation.

While we believe our independent advisory perspective and global footprint offers a uniquely competitive position, many of our competitors are large, consolidated financial institutions that have the ability to offer a wider range of products, including loans, insurance, foreign exchange, hedging, research, brokerage and underwriting services, which may enhance their competitive position. They also may have the ability to support clients with other financial services in an effort to gain market share, which could result in pricing pressure in our business or loss of opportunities for us. At the same time, demand for independent financial advice has created opportunities for new entrants, including a number of boutique financial advisory firms. These boutique firms frequently compete, among other factors, on the basis of their independent financial advice, and their activities also could result in pricing and other competitive pressure in our businesses. In some circumstances, our competitors may offer financial products or services that we do not offer, such as low-cost passive or private investment vehicles. We compete based on the quality and breadth of our products and innovative solutions we offer, which is derived from our objectivity, differentiated insights and fundamental research orientation.

Competition is also intense in each of our businesses for the attraction and retention of qualified employees, and we compete, among other factors, on the level and nature of compensation and long-term incentives, workplace culture and opportunities for professional and personal development for our employees. Our ability to continue to compete effectively in our businesses will depend upon our ability to attract new employees and retain and motivate our existing employees, in each case, at appropriate compensation levels.

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See Item 1A, “Risk Factors—The financial services industry, and all of the businesses in which we compete, are intensely competitive” below.

Regulation

Our businesses, like the financial services industry generally, are subject to extensive regulation throughout the world. As a matter of public policy, regulatory bodies are generally charged with safeguarding the integrity of the securities and other financial markets and with protecting the interests of customers participating in those markets, not with protecting the interests of our stockholders or creditors. Many of our affiliates that participate in securities markets are subject to comprehensive regulations that include some form of minimum capital retention requirements and customer protection rules. In the U.S., certain of our subsidiaries are subject to such regulations promulgated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) and/or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). Standards, requirements and rules implemented throughout the European Union are broadly comparable in scope and purpose to the regulatory capital and customer protection requirements imposed under the SEC and FINRA rules. European Union directives also permit local regulation in each jurisdiction, including those in which we operate, to be more restrictive than the requirements of such European Union-wide directives. These sometimes burdensome local requirements can result in certain competitive disadvantages to us.

In the U.S., the SEC is the federal agency responsible for the administration of the federal securities laws. FINRA is a voluntary, self-regulatory body composed of members, such as our broker-dealer subsidiaries, that have agreed to abide by FINRA’s rules and regulations. The SEC, FINRA and other U.S. and non-U.S. regulatory organizations may examine the activities of, and may expel, fine and otherwise discipline us and our employees. The laws, rules and regulations comprising this framework of regulation and the interpretation and enforcement of existing laws, rules and regulations are continually changing. The effect of any such changes cannot be predicted and may impact the manner of operation and profitability of our businesses.

Our principal U.S. broker-dealer subsidiary, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC (“LFNY”), through which we conduct most of our U.S. Financial Advisory business, is currently registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC and FINRA, and as a broker-dealer in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. As such, LFNY is subject to regulations governing most aspects of the securities business, including regulations regarding minimum capital retention requirements, record-keeping and reporting procedures, relationships with customers, experience and training requirements for certain employees and business procedures with firms that are not members of certain regulatory bodies. Lazard Asset Management Securities LLC (“LAM Securities”), a subsidiary of Lazard Asset Management LLC (“LAM LLC”), is registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC and FINRA and in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Lazard Middle Market LLC is registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC and FINRA and as a broker-dealer in various U.S. states and territories.

Our U.S. broker-dealer subsidiaries, including LFNY, are subject to the SEC’s uniform net capital rule, Rule 15c3-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), and the net capital rules of FINRA, which may limit our ability to make withdrawals of capital from our broker-dealer subsidiaries. The uniform net capital rule sets the minimum level of net capital a broker-dealer must maintain and also requires that a portion of its assets be relatively liquid. FINRA may prohibit a member firm from expanding its business or paying cash dividends if it would result in net capital falling below FINRA’s requirements. In addition, our broker-dealer subsidiaries are subject to certain notification requirements related to withdrawals of excess net capital. Our broker-dealer subsidiaries are also subject to regulations, including the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, which impose obligations regarding the prevention and detection of money-laundering activities, including the establishment of customer due diligence and other compliance policies and procedures. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in monetary, regulatory and, in certain cases, criminal penalties.

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Certain U.K. subsidiaries of Lazard Group, including Lazard & Co., Limited (“LCL”), Lazard Fund Managers Limited and Lazard Asset Management Limited, which we refer to in this Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Form 10-K”) as the “U.K. subsidiaries,” are authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (the “FCA”), and are subject to various rules and regulations made by the FCA under the authorities conferred upon it by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, as amended by the Financial Services Act 2012.

Certain of our Asset Management subsidiaries are registered as investment advisors with the SEC. As a registered investment advisor, each is subject to the requirements of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended (the “Investment Advisers Act”), and the SEC’s regulations thereunder. Such requirements relate to, among other things, the relationship between an advisor and its advisory clients, as well as general anti-fraud prohibitions. LAM LLC serves as an investment advisor to several U.S. mutual funds which are registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “Investment Company Act”). The Investment Company Act regulates, among other things, the relationship between a mutual fund and its investment advisor (and other service providers) and prohibits or severely restricts principal transactions between an advisor and its advisory clients, imposes record-keeping and reporting requirements, disclosure requirements, limitations on trades where a single broker acts as the agent for both the buyer and seller, and limitations on affiliated transactions and joint transactions. LAM Securities serves as an underwriter or distributor for mutual funds and private funds managed by LAM LLC and its subsidiaries (collectively, “LAM”), and as an introducing broker to Pershing LLC for unmanaged accounts of certain of LAM LLC’s private clients.

Compagnie Financière Lazard Frères SAS (“CFLF”), our French subsidiary under which asset management and commercial banking activities are carried out in France, is subject to regulation by the Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution (“ACPR”) for its banking activities conducted through our Paris-based banking subsidiary, Lazard Frères Banque SA (“LFB”). The investment services activities of the Paris group, exercised through LFB and other subsidiaries of CFLF, primarily Lazard Frères Gestion SAS (“LFG”), (asset management), also are subject to regulation and supervision by the Autorité des Marchés Financiers. In addition, pursuant to the consolidated supervision rules in the European Union, LFB, in particular, as a French credit institution, is required to be supervised by a regulatory body, either in the U.S. or in the European Union. In 2013, the Company and the ACPR agreed on terms for the consolidated supervision of LFB and certain other non-Financial Advisory European subsidiaries of the Company (referred to herein, on a combined basis, as the “combined European regulated group”) under such rules. Under this supervision, the combined European regulated group is required to comply with minimum requirements for regulatory net capital to be reported on a quarterly basis and satisfy periodic financial and other reporting obligations. Additionally, the combined European regulated group, together with our European Financial Advisory entities, is required to perform an annual risk assessment and provide certain other information on a periodic basis, including financial reports and information relating to financial performance, balance sheet data and capital structure.

As a result of certain changes effected by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) related to the regulation of over-the-counter swaps and other derivative instruments, LAM and certain of its subsidiaries have registered with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) and the National Futures Association (the “NFA”), and are subject to certain aspects of the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act and the regulations thereunder, and to the rules of the NFA. The CFTC and the NFA have authority over the laws, rules and regulations related to commodities (including the over-the-counter swaps and derivatives markets), and regulate our relationship with clients who trade in these instruments. The U.S. Commodity Exchange Act and the regulations thereunder also impose additional record-keeping and reporting requirements and disclosure requirements on LAM and its subsidiaries.

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In addition, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Japanese Ministry of Finance and Financial Services Agency, the Korean Financial Supervisory Commission, the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, the Dubai Financial Services Authority, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, the Italian Companies and Stock Exchange Commission and the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, among others, regulate relevant operating subsidiaries of the Company and also have capital standards and other requirements broadly comparable to the rules of the SEC. Our business is also subject to regulation by other non-U.S. governmental and regulatory bodies and self-regulatory authorities in other countries in which we operate.

Regulators are empowered to conduct periodic examinations and initiate administrative proceedings that can result, among other things, in censure, fine, the issuance of cease-and-desist orders or the suspension or expulsion or other disciplining of a regulated entity or its directors, officers or employees.

We are also subject to various anti-bribery, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing laws, rules and regulations in the jurisdictions in which we operate. The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for example, generally prohibits offering, promising or giving, or authorizing others to give, anything of value, either directly or indirectly, to a non-U.S. government official in order to influence official action or otherwise gain an unfair business advantage, such as to obtain or retain business. Similar rules and regulations exist in other jurisdictions in which we operate. In addition, we are required to comply with economic sanctions and embargo programs administered by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and by similar governmental agencies and other authorities worldwide. Violations of any of these laws, rules, regulations and programs can give rise to administrative, civil or criminal penalties.

The U.S. and other governments and institutions have taken actions, and may continue to take further actions, that affect the global financial markets. Such further actions could include expanding current or enacting new standards, requirements and rules that may be applicable to us and our subsidiaries. The effect of any such expanded or new standards, requirements and rules is uncertain and could have adverse consequences to our business and results of operations. See Item 1A, “Risk Factors—Other Business Risks—Extensive regulation of our businesses limits our activities and results in ongoing exposure to the potential for significant penalties, including fines or limitations on our ability to conduct our businesses.”


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Executive Officers of the Registrant

Set forth below are the name, age, present title, principal occupation and certain biographical information for each of our executive officers as of February 16, 2021, all of whom have been appointed by, and serve at the discretion of, our board of directors.

Kenneth M. Jacobs, 62

Mr. Jacobs has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of Lazard Ltd and Lazard Group since November 2009. Mr. Jacobs has served as a Managing Director of Lazard since 1991 and had been a Deputy Chairman of Lazard from January 2002 until November 2009. Mr. Jacobs also served as Chief Executive Officer of Lazard North America from January 2002 until November 2009. Mr. Jacobs initially joined Lazard in 1988. Mr. Jacobs is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago and the Brookings Institution.

Evan L. Russo, 46

Mr. Russo has served as Chief Financial Officer of Lazard Ltd and Lazard Group since October 2017.  Mr. Russo has served as a Managing Director of Lazard since 2009, and, prior to becoming Chief Financial Officer, was Co-Head of Lazard’s Capital Markets and Capital Structure Advisory practice. Mr. Russo joined Lazard as a Director in 2007.  Prior to joining Lazard, Mr. Russo worked for Goldman, Sachs & Co. in the Investment Banking Division, and prior to that, for Barclays Capital. Mr. Russo began his career as an attorney at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

Ashish Bhutani, 60

Mr. Bhutani has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Lazard Ltd and Lazard Group since March 2010. Mr. Bhutani is a Vice Chairman and a Managing Director of Lazard and has been the Chief Executive Officer of LAM since March 2004. Mr. Bhutani previously served as Head of New Products and Strategic Planning for LAM from June 2003 to March 2004. Prior to joining Lazard, he was Co-Chief Executive Officer, North America, of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein from 2001 to the end of 2002, and was a member of its Global Corporate and Markets Board, and a member of its Global Executive Committee. Mr. Bhutani worked at Wasserstein Perella Group (the predecessor to Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein) from 1989 to 2001, serving as Deputy Chairman of Wasserstein Perella Group and Chief Executive Officer of Wasserstein Perella Securities from 1994 to 2001. Mr. Bhutani began his career at Salomon Brothers in 1985, where he was a Vice President in Fixed Income. Mr. Bhutani is a member of the Board of Directors of four registered investment companies, which are part of the Lazard fund complex. Mr. Bhutani is also a member of the Board of Directors of City Harvest.

Scott D. Hoffman, 58

Mr. Hoffman has served as Chief Administrative Officer of Lazard Ltd and Lazard Group since July 2017 and as General Counsel of Lazard Ltd since May 2005. Mr. Hoffman has served as a Managing Director of Lazard since January 1999 and General Counsel of Lazard Group since January 2001. Mr. Hoffman previously served as Vice President and Assistant General Counsel from February 1994 to December 1997 and as a Director from January 1998 to December 1998. Prior to joining Lazard, Mr. Hoffman was an attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. Mr. Hoffman is a member of the Board of Trustees of the New York University School of Law and a member of the Board of Directors of Film at Lincoln Center.

Peter Orszag, 52

Mr. Orszag became Chief Executive Officer of Financial Advisory in June 2019. Prior to that he was Lazard’s Head of North American Mergers & Acquisitions since July 2018 and Global Co-Head of Healthcare since November 2016. Mr. Orszag joined Lazard in May 2016 as a Vice Chairman of Investment Banking from Citigroup, where he was Vice Chairman of Corporate and Investment Banking and Chairman of the Financial Strategy and Solutions Group from January 2011 to February 2016. Mr. Orszag served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama Administration from January 2009 to July 2010, and was the Director of the

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Congressional Budget Office from January 2007 to December 2008. Mr. Orszag is a member of the Board of Directors of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the Mt. Sinai Medical Center and New Visions for Public Schools in New York, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Alexandra Soto, 51

Ms. Soto became Group Executive, Human Capital and Workplace Innovation, of Lazard Ltd and Lazard Group in June 2019. She became the Global Chief Operating Officer of Financial Advisory in July 2018 and has served as a Managing Director of Lazard since January 2001. Ms. Soto was previously Chief Operating Officer of Lazard Europe Financial Advisory from January 2006 to July 2018, and Chief Operating Officer of Lazard Paris Financial Advisory from October 2009 to August 2013. Prior to joining Lazard in June 1993, Ms. Soto worked for Morgan Stanley. She is a member of the Supervisory Board of Metro AG.

Alexander F. Stern, 54

Mr. Stern became President of Lazard Ltd and Lazard Group in June 2019. In addition, in December 2020, Mr. Stern became Executive Chairman and a director of Lazard Growth Acquisition Corp. I. Mr. Stern has served as a Managing Director of Lazard since January 2002, and prior to becoming President was Chief Executive Officer, Financial Advisory since April 2015, Chief Operating Officer of Lazard Ltd and Lazard Group since November 2008, and Global Head of Strategy since February 2006. Mr. Stern joined Lazard in 1994 and previously held various positions with Patricof & Co. Ventures and IBM. Mr. Stern is the chairman of the Board of Directors of LUNGevity Foundation and a member of the Board of Overseers for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of the University of Pennsylvania.


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Where You Can Find Additional Information

Lazard Ltd files current, annual and quarterly reports, proxy statements and other information required by the Exchange Act with the SEC. The Company’s SEC filings are available to the public from the SEC’s internet site at http://www.sec.gov.

Our public website is http://www.lazard.com and the investor relations section thereof hosts our SEC filings. We will make available free of charge, on or through the investor relations section of our website, our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements and Forms 3, 4 and 5 filed on behalf of directors and executive officers and any amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. Also posted on our website, and available in print upon request of any Lazard Ltd shareholder to the Investor Relations Department, are charters for the Company’s Audit Committee, Compensation Committee, Nominating & Governance Committee and Workplace and Culture Committee. Copies of these charters and our Corporate Governance Guidelines and Code of Business Conduct and Ethics governing our directors, officers and employees are also posted on the investor relations section of our website in the corporate governance subsection.

 

ITEM 1A.

RISK FACTORS

You should carefully consider the following risks and all of the other information set forth in this Form 10-K, including our consolidated financial statements and related notes. The following risks comprise the material risks of which we are aware. If any of the events or developments described below actually occurred, our business, financial condition or results of operations would likely suffer.

Risk Factors Summary

 

The following is a summary of certain material risks of which we are aware. You should carefully consider this summary, together with the more detailed description of each risk factor contained below.

 

Difficult market conditions can adversely affect our business in many ways, including by reducing the volume of transactions involving our Financial Advisory business and reducing the value or performance of the assets we manage in our Asset Management business.

Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates could reduce our stockholders’ equity and net income or negatively impact the portfolios of our Asset Management clients and may affect the levels of our AUM.

Our results of operations may be affected by fluctuations in the fair value of positions held in our investment portfolios.

Our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the nature of our business, financial results could differ significantly from period to period, which may make it difficult for us to achieve steady earnings growth on a quarterly basis.

Failure to retain our managing directors and other key professional employees, including maintaining compensation levels at an appropriate level, may materially adversely affect our results of operations and financial position.

The financial services industry, and all of the businesses in which we compete, are intensely competitive.

A substantial portion of our revenue is derived from Financial Advisory fees, which are not long-term contracted sources of revenue and are subject to intense competition.

If the number of debt defaults, bankruptcies or other factors affecting demand for our Restructuring services declines, our Restructuring revenue could suffer.

Potential underwriting activities may expose us to risk.

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Our investment style in our Asset Management business may underperform or generate less demand than other investment approaches, which may result in significant client or asset departures or a reduction in AUM.

We could lose clients and suffer a decline in our Asset Management revenue and earnings if the investments we choose in our Asset Management business perform poorly, regardless of overall trends in the prices of securities.

Because many of our Asset Management clients can remove the assets we manage on short notice, we may experience unexpected declines in revenue and profitability.

For our Asset Management business, reductions in referrals to clients from intermediaries and consultants or poor reviews of our products or our organization by such intermediaries or consultants could materially reduce our revenue and impair our ability to attract new clients.

Our Asset management business relies on non-affiliated third-party service providers.

We may lose some or all of the principal amount of our investments in relatively high-risk, illiquid assets or fail to realize any profits from these investments for a considerable period of time.

We may pursue growth or geographic expansion strategies that may result in additional risks and uncertainties in our business and could present unforeseen integration obstacles or costs.

An inability to access the debt and equity capital markets as a result of our debt obligations, credit ratings or other factors could impair our liquidity, increase our borrowing costs or otherwise adversely affect our financial position or results of operations.

The soundness of third parties, including our clients, as well as financial, governmental and other institutions, could adversely affect us.

Other operational risks may disrupt our businesses, result in regulatory action against us or limit our growth.

Extensive regulation of our businesses limits our activities and results in ongoing exposure to the potential for significant penalties, including fines or limitations on our ability to conduct our businesses.

We may face damage to our professional reputation and legal liability if our services are not regarded as satisfactory or if conflicts of interest should arise.

Employee misconduct, which is difficult to detect and deter, could harm us by impairing our ability to attract and retain clients and subjecting us to significant legal liability and reputational harm.

A failure in or breach of our information systems or infrastructure, or those of third parties with which we do business, including as a result of cyber attacks, could disrupt our businesses, lead to reputational harm and legal liability or otherwise impact our ability to operate our business.

Failure to maintain effective internal controls in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act could materially adversely affect our business.

Uncertainty regarding the outcome of future arrangements between the European Union and the United Kingdom may adversely affect our business.

In the event of a change or adverse interpretation of relevant income tax law, regulation or treaty, or a failure to qualify for treaty benefits, our overall tax rate may be substantially higher than the rate used for purposes of our consolidated financial statements.

Tax authorities may challenge our tax computations and classifications, our transfer pricing methods and our application of related policies and methods.

Our subsidiaries may be required to make payments under the Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement. The IRS may challenge the tax benefits that give rise to such payments and, under certain circumstances, our subsidiaries may have made or could make payments under the Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement in excess of our subsidiaries’ cash tax savings.

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Lazard Ltd is a holding company and, accordingly, depends upon distributions from Lazard Group to pay dividends and taxes and other expenses.

Lazard Group is a holding company and, accordingly, depends on its subsidiaries to make distributions to Lazard Group to enable it to service its obligations under its indebtedness.

Risks Related to Economic and Current Conditions Impacting Us and our Business

Difficult market conditions can adversely affect our business in many ways, including by reducing the volume of transactions involving our Financial Advisory business and reducing the value or performance of the assets we manage in our Asset Management business, which, in each case, could materially reduce our revenue or income and adversely affect our financial position.

As a financial services firm, our businesses are materially affected by conditions in the global financial markets and economic conditions throughout the world. Unfavorable economic and market conditions can adversely affect our financial performance in both the Financial Advisory and Asset Management businesses. The future market and economic climate may deteriorate because of many factors, such as a general slowing of economic growth globally or regionally, periods of disruption or volatility in securities markets, volatility and tightening of liquidity in credit markets, volatility or significant realignments in currency markets, increases in interest rates, inflation, corporate or sovereign defaults, natural disasters, terrorism or political uncertainty.

For example, revenue generated by our Financial Advisory business is directly related to the volume and value of the transactions in which we are involved. During periods of unfavorable or uncertain market or economic conditions, the volume and value of M&A transactions may decrease, thereby reducing the demand for our Financial Advisory services and increasing price competition among financial services companies seeking such engagements. Our results of operations would be adversely affected by any such reduction in the volume or value of M&A transactions. In addition, our profitability would be adversely affected due to our fixed costs and the possibility that we would be unable to reduce our variable costs without reducing revenue or within a timeframe sufficient to offset any decreases in revenue relating to changes in market and economic conditions.

Within our Financial Advisory business, we have typically seen that, during periods of economic strength and growth, our Mergers and Acquisitions practice historically has been more active and our Restructuring practice has been less active. Conversely, during periods of economic weakness and contraction, we typically have seen that our Restructuring practice has been more active and our Mergers and Acquisitions practice has been less active. As a result, revenue from our Restructuring practice has tended to correlate negatively to our revenue from our Mergers and Acquisitions practice over the course of business cycles. These trends are cyclical in nature and subject to periodic reversal. However, these trends do not cancel out the impact of economic conditions in our Financial Advisory business, which may be adversely affected by a downturn in economic conditions, leading to decreased Mergers and Acquisitions practice activity, notwithstanding improvements in our Restructuring practice. Moreover, revenue improvements in our Mergers and Acquisitions practice in strong economic conditions could be offset in whole or in part by any related revenue declines in our Restructuring practice. While we generally have experienced a counter-cyclical relationship between our Mergers and Acquisitions practice and our Restructuring practice, this relationship may not continue in the future, and there is no certainty that strength in one practice will offset, or partially offset, weakness in the other.

Our Asset Management business also would be expected to generate lower revenue in a market or general economic downturn. Under our Asset Management business’s arrangements, investment advisory fees we receive typically are based on the market value of AUM. Accordingly, a decline in the prices of securities, or in specific geographic markets or sectors that constitute a significant portion of our AUM (e.g., our emerging markets strategies), would be expected to cause our revenue and income to decline by causing:

 

 

the value of our AUM to decrease, which would result in lower investment advisory fees;

 

 

some of our clients to withdraw funds from our Asset Management business due to the uncertainty or volatility in the market, or in favor of investments they perceive as offering greater opportunity or lower risk, which would also result in lower investment advisory fees;

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some of our clients or prospective clients to hesitate in allocating assets to our Asset Management business due to the uncertainty or volatility in the market, which would also result in lower investment advisory fees; or

 

 

negative absolute performance returns for some accounts that have performance-based incentive fees, which would result in a reduction of revenue from such fees.

 

Our AUM has declined from time to time during recent periods. For example, average AUM for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $225 billion, a decrease of 4% as compared to average AUM for the year ended December 31, 2019. If our Asset Management revenue declines without a commensurate reduction in our expenses, our net income would be reduced. In addition, in the event of a market or general economic downturn, our alternative investment and private equity practices also may be impacted by a difficult fund raising environment and reduced exit opportunities in which to realize the value of their investments. Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates may also affect the levels of our AUM and our investment advisory fees. See “Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates could reduce our stockholders’ equity and net income or negatively impact the portfolios of our Asset Management clients and may affect the levels of our AUM” below.

Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates could reduce our stockholders’ equity and net income or negatively impact the portfolios of our Asset Management clients and may affect the levels of our AUM.

We are exposed to fluctuations in foreign currencies, including through advisory fees paid to our Financial Advisory business and management fees paid to our Asset Management business. Our financial statements are denominated in U.S. Dollars and, for the year ended December 31, 2020, we received a portion of our consolidated net revenue in other currencies, predominantly in Euros, British Pounds and Australian Dollars. In addition, we pay a portion of our expenses in such other currencies. The exchange rates of these currencies versus the U.S. Dollar affect the carrying value of our assets and liabilities as well as our revenues, expenses and net income. We do not generally hedge such foreign currency exchange rate exposure arising in our subsidiaries outside of the U.S. Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates may also make period to period comparisons of our results of operations difficult.

Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates also can impact the portfolios of our Asset Management clients. Client portfolios are invested in securities across the globe, although most portfolios are funded in a single base currency. Foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations can adversely impact investment performance for a client’s portfolio and also may affect the levels of our AUM. As our AUM include significant assets that are denominated in currencies other than U.S. Dollars, an increase in the value of the U.S. Dollar relative to non-U.S. currencies, with all other factors held constant, generally would result in a decrease in the dollar value of our AUM, which, in turn, would result in lower U.S. Dollar-denominated revenue in our Asset Management business. As of December 31, 2020, AUM with foreign currency exposure represented approximately 69% of our total AUM.

See Note 15 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding the impact on stockholders’ equity from currency translation adjustments and Note 2 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding the impact on operating results from currency transaction adjustments.

Our results of operations may be affected by fluctuations in the fair value of positions held in our investment portfolios.

We invest capital in various types of equity and debt securities in order to seed equity, debt and alternative investment funds and for general corporate purposes. Such investments are subject to market fluctuations due to changes in the market prices of securities, interest rates or other market factors, such as liquidity. While we may seek to hedge the market risk for some of these investments, an effective hedge may not be available and, if available, may not be fully effective. These investments are adjusted for accounting purposes to fair value at the end of each quarter, regardless of our intended holding period, with any related gains or losses reflected in our results of operations and therefore may increase the volatility of our earnings, even though such gains or losses may not be realized.

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Our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus (“COVID-19”) continues to affect the global community and our business, financial condition and results of operations. The nature and severity of the impact remains highly uncertain, and the extent to which COVID-19 affects our operations and heightens the risks described in these Risk Factors will continue to depend largely on future developments, including the course of the pandemic; the manufacturing, global  distribution and efficacy of vaccines developed to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and the extent of actions that have been or may be taken to contain or address its impact. These actions, many of which have been implemented in various jurisdictions worldwide, include, but are not limited to, declarations of states of emergency, business closures, restrictions on businesses’ ability to pay dividends or make distributions, restrictions on in-person meetings and travel or other similar restrictions and limitations. While such actions may be, or have been, relaxed or suspended, they may also be reinstated or enhanced as the pandemic continues to evolve, and the relaxation or suspension of such actions may not be successful in restarting economic activity. The scope and timing of any such actions or reinstatements remains difficult to predict.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the economies in impacted countries and regions, including those in which our businesses operate, and the global financial markets, including the global debt and equity capital markets, which have experienced, and may continue to experience, significant volatility. The pandemic resulted in an economic downturn, which included a sharp drop in aggregate demand and, particularly in the U.S., an increased level of unemployment, that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and could have a negative impact on our Financial Advisory and Asset Management businesses. Disruptions to, and volatility in, the global financial markets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may result in a decrease in the volume and value of M&A transactions, thereby reducing the demand for our Financial Advisory services and increasing price competition among financial services companies seeking such engagements, which may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. Those same market disruptions may result in a decrease in our AUM resulting in lower investment advisory fees for our Asset Management business, may affect our ability to effect transactions for our Asset Management clients and may negatively impact the liquidity of the assets held in our client portfolios. Furthermore, any such disruptions to the global financial markets may affect our ability to incur debt or issue equity on acceptable terms, or at all, to fund our working capital requirements or refinance existing indebtedness or to make acquisitions and other investments. Additionally, we have exposure to many different industries and counterparties, and we routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including brokers and dealers, commercial banks, investment banks, mutual and hedge funds and other institutional clients. Many of these transactions expose us to credit risk in the event our counterparty or client defaults, which defaults could become more frequent or widespread due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have required, and will continue to require, a significant investment of time and resources across our businesses. In response to recommendations or orders by governmental institutions limiting certain business or commercial activities in jurisdictions in which we operate around the world, we have taken, and may take further, preventative or protective actions, including instituting policies requiring employees who are capable of performing their functions remotely to do so. These arrangements may result in reduced productivity and limitations on the ability of our managing directors and employees to communicate or interact, which may adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, given the unprecedented number of employees performing their functions remotely, we have reinforced policies, procedures and guidelines that we believe are reasonably designed to protect the confidentiality of our and our clients’ confidential information, but there can be no assurance that these measures will be adequate. Any unauthorized disclosure of such information could result in legal action, regulatory sanctions and reputational or financial harm.

Similarly, due to the unprecedented number of employees continuously deploying the remote working capabilities of our information systems, including on home networks or through increased use of mobile technologies, we face a heightened risk of operational interruptions and security breaches involving such systems. Additionally, such home and mobile technology resources could be more susceptible to interruptions and security breaches than our dedicated business resources. There can be no assurance that protective measures and policies we have instituted in an effort to reduce the likelihood and severity of such interruptions and breaches, including as a

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result of cyber attacks, will be adequate. See “A failure in or breach of our information systems or infrastructure, or those of third parties with which we do business, including as a result of cyber attacks, could disrupt our businesses, lead to reputational harm and legal liability or otherwise impact our ability to operate our business” below.

Certain of our third party vendors or service providers may take, have taken or may take further preventative or protective actions, including instituting policies requiring their respective employees who are capable of performing their functions remotely to do so and implementing or expanding back-up procedures and capabilities, and may be experiencing a growing demand for their services. Any failure of or interruption to their systems or any back-up procedures and capabilities as a result of such actions or such growth in demand could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. See “Other operational risks may disrupt our businesses, result in regulatory action against us or limit our growth” below.

 

 

Risks Related to Our Business and Operations

Due to the nature of our business, financial results could differ significantly from period to period, which may make it difficult for us to achieve steady earnings growth on a quarterly basis.

We experience significant fluctuations in quarterly revenue and profits. These fluctuations generally can be attributed to the fact that we earn a substantial portion of our Financial Advisory revenue upon the successful completion of a transaction or a restructuring, the timing of which is uncertain and is not subject to our control. As a result, our Financial Advisory business is highly dependent on market conditions and the decisions and actions of our clients, interested third parties and governmental authorities. For example, a client or counterparty could delay or terminate an acquisition transaction because of a failure to agree upon final terms, failure to obtain necessary regulatory consents or board of directors, or acquirer’s or stockholder approval, failure to secure necessary financing, adverse market conditions or because the seller’s business is experiencing unexpected operating or financial problems. Anticipated bidders for assets of a client during a restructuring transaction may not materialize or our client may not be able to restructure its operations or indebtedness, for example, due to a failure to reach agreement with its principal creditors. In addition, a bankruptcy court may deny our right to collect a “success” or “completion” fee. In these circumstances, other than in engagements where we receive retainers, we often do not receive any advisory fees other than the reimbursement of certain expenses, despite the fact that we devote resources to these transactions. Accordingly, the failure of one or more transactions to close either as anticipated or at all could cause significant fluctuations in quarterly revenue and profits and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. For more information, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations”.

 

In addition, our Asset Management revenue is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in our AUM. Asset Management fees are predominantly based on the daily, monthly or quarterly average AUM. As a result, a reduction in AUM at the end of a day, month or quarter (as a result of market depreciation, withdrawals, fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates or otherwise) will result in a decrease in management fees. Similarly, the timing of flows, contributions and withdrawals are often out of our control and may be inconsistent from quarter to quarter. Incentive fees are driven by investment performance (either absolute performance or relative to an established benchmark), which is directly impacted by market movements, and may therefore fluctuate from period to period.

 

As a result of such fluctuations, it may be difficult for us to achieve steady revenue and earnings growth on a quarterly basis.

Our ability to retain our managing directors and other key professional employees is critical to the success of our business, including maintaining compensation levels at an appropriate level, and failure to do so may materially adversely affect our results of operations and financial position.

Our people are our most important asset. We must retain the services of our managing directors and other key professional employees, and strategically recruit and hire new talented employees, to obtain and successfully execute the Financial Advisory and Asset Management engagements that generate substantially all of our revenue.

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In general, our industry continues to experience change and be subject to significant competitive pressures with respect to the retention of top talent, which makes it more difficult for us to retain professionals. Loss of key employees may occur due to perceived opportunity for promotion, compensation levels or composition of compensation, work environment, retirement or the pursuit of philanthropic, civic or similar service opportunities or other individual reasons, some of which may be beyond our control. If managing directors and other key professional employees were to retire, join an existing competitor, form a competing company or otherwise leave us, we could need to replace them, and some of our clients could eventually choose to use the services of that competitor or some other competitor instead of our services. In any such event, our financial advisory fees, asset management fees or AUM could decline. The employment arrangements, non-competition agreements and retention agreements we have or will enter into with our managing directors and other key professional employees may not sufficiently prevent our managing directors and other key professional employees from resigning from practice or competing against us. In addition, these arrangements and agreements have a limited duration and expire after a certain period of time. We continue to be subject to intense competition in the financial services industry regarding the recruitment and retention of key professionals, and have experienced departures from and added to our professional ranks as a result. Furthermore, we seek to align the interests of our managing directors and other key professional employees with that of our shareholders by awarding deferred compensation in the form of equity, and any change in our ability to grant such awards, including as a result of a shareholder vote against any of our equity incentive plans, could have a negative impact on our ability to promote such alignment.

Certain changes to our employee compensation arrangements may result in increased compensation and benefits expense. In addition, any changes to the mix of cash and deferred incentive compensation granted to our employees may affect certain financial measures applicable to our business, including ratios of compensation and benefits expense to revenue, and may result in the issuance of increased levels of common stock, par value $0.01 per share, to our employees upon vesting of restricted stock units (“RSUs”), performance-based restricted stock units (“PRSUs”), restricted stock awards, profits interest participation rights or other equity-based awards in a particular year. Our compensation levels, results of operations and financial position may be significantly affected by many factors, including general economic and market conditions, our operating and financial performance, staffing levels and competitive pay conditions.

The financial services industry, and all of the businesses in which we compete, are intensely competitive.

The financial services industry is intensely competitive, and we expect it to remain so. We compete on the basis of a number of factors, including the quality of our advice, our employees and transaction execution, the range and price of our products and services, our innovation and our reputation. We have experienced intense fee competition in some of our businesses in recent years, and we believe that we may experience pricing pressures in these and other areas in the future as some of our competitors seek to obtain increased market share by reducing fees. A number of factors increase the competitive risks of our Financial Advisory and Asset Management businesses:

 

there are relatively few barriers to entry impeding the launch of new asset management and financial advisory firms, including a relatively low cost of entering these businesses, and the successful efforts of new entrants, including major banks and other financial institutions, into our lines of business have resulted in increased competition;

 

 

other industry participants will from time to time seek to recruit our employees away from us in order to compete in our lines of business; and

 

 

certain of our practices and products are newly established and relatively small.

In addition, many of our competitors have the ability to offer a wide range of products, from loans, deposit-taking and insurance to brokerage, asset management and investment banking services, which may enhance their competitive position. They may also have the ability to support investment banking, including financial advisory services, with commercial banking, insurance and other financial services in an effort to gain market share, which could result in pricing pressure in our businesses.

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Competitive pressure could adversely affect our ability to attract new or retain existing clients, make successful investments, retain our people or maintain AUM, any of which would adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

A substantial portion of our revenue is derived from Financial Advisory fees, which are not long-term contracted sources of revenue and are subject to intense competition, and declines in our Financial Advisory engagements could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We historically have earned a substantial portion of our revenue from advisory fees paid to us by our Financial Advisory clients, which usually are payable upon the successful completion of a particular transaction or restructuring. For example, for the year ended December 31, 2020, Financial Advisory services accounted for approximately 55% of our consolidated net revenue. We expect that we will continue to rely on Financial Advisory fees for a substantial portion of our revenue for the foreseeable future, and a decline in our Financial Advisory engagements or the market for financial advisory services would adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In addition, we operate in a highly competitive environment where typically there are no long-term contracted sources of revenue. Each revenue-generating engagement typically is separately awarded and negotiated. Furthermore, many businesses do not routinely engage in transactions requiring our services, and as a consequence, our fee paying engagements with many clients are not likely to be predictable. We also lose clients each year, including as a result of the sale or merger of a client, a change in a client’s senior management and competition from other financial advisors and financial institutions. As a result, our engagements with clients are constantly changing, and our Financial Advisory fees could decline quickly due to the factors discussed above.

If the number of debt defaults, bankruptcies or other factors affecting demand for our Restructuring services declines, our Restructuring revenue could suffer.

We provide various restructuring and restructuring-related advice to companies in financial distress or to their creditors or other stakeholders. Historically, the fees from restructuring-related services have been a significant part of our Financial Advisory revenue. A number of factors could affect demand for these advisory services, including improving general economic conditions, the availability and cost of debt and equity financing and changes to laws, rules and regulations, including those that protect creditors, and the deregulation or privatization of particular industries.

Potential underwriting activities may expose us to risk.

In 2014, we took steps that have enabled us to act as an underwriter in public offerings and other distributions of securities in order to buttress our Financial Advisory business. While not an ordinary part of our business, if we act as an underwriter, we may incur losses and be subject to reputational harm to the extent that, for any reason, the underwriting syndicate in any given transaction is unable to sell the relevant securities at the anticipated price levels. In addition, if we act as an underwriter, we may also be subject to liability for material misstatements or omissions in prospectuses and other offering documents relating to offerings we underwrite. In such cases, any indemnification provisions in the applicable underwriting agreement may not be available to us or may not be sufficient to protect us against losses arising from such liability. Operational risk in connection with any offering we underwrite could arise in the form of errors, deficiencies or noncompliance and also could expose us to risk. We seek to manage the risks associated with underwriting activities through screening, internal review and diligence procedures and processes, but such efforts may not be effective in all cases.

Our investment style in our Asset Management business, including the mix of asset classes and investment strategies comprising our AUM, may underperform or generate less demand than other investment approaches, which may result in significant client or asset departures or a reduction in AUM.

Even when securities prices are rising generally, performance can be affected by investment style and mix of asset classes. For example, many of the equity investment strategies in our Asset Management business share a common investment orientation towards relative value investing. We believe this style tends to outperform the market in some market environments and underperform it in others. In particular, a prolonged growth environment, as we have seen over the last several years, may cause some of our investment strategies to go out of favor with

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some clients, advisors, consultants or third-party intermediaries. In addition, all of our investment strategies are actively managed strategies which seek to outperform relative to a benchmark or generate an absolute return. Management fees for actively managed strategies tend to be higher than those charged for passively managed strategies. The perception that actively managed strategies have, on average, underperformed relative to passively managed strategies over time, combined with greater pressure on clients to acquire asset management services at lower costs, has contributed to increased trends toward passively managed investment strategies. This, in turn, may adversely affect demand for our strategies or result in fee pressure on our business overall. In combination with poor performance relative to peers, changes in personnel, challenging market environments or other difficulties, the underperformance of our investment style may result in significant client or asset departures or a reduction in AUM.

We could lose clients and suffer a decline in our Asset Management revenue and earnings if the investments we choose in our Asset Management business perform poorly, regardless of overall trends in the prices of securities.

Investment performance affects our AUM relating to existing clients and is one of the most important factors in retaining clients and competing for new Asset Management business. Poor investment performance could impair our revenue and growth because:

 

 

existing clients might withdraw funds from our Asset Management business in favor of better performing products, which would result in lower investment advisory fees;

 

 

our incentive fees, which provide us with a set percentage of returns on some alternative investment and private equity funds and other accounts, would decline;

 

 

third-party financial intermediaries, rating services, advisors or consultants may rate our products poorly, which may result in client withdrawals and reduced asset flows; or

 

 

firms with which we have strategic alliances may terminate such relationships with us, and future strategic alliances may be unavailable.

Over certain time periods, we may have a higher concentration of assets in certain strategies. To the extent that this is the case, underperformance, changes in investment personnel or other changes in these strategies, as well as changes in a variety of macroeconomic and other factors, may result in a withdrawal of assets. If a significant amount of clients withdraw from these strategies for any reason, our revenues would decline and our operating results would be adversely affected.

Because many of our Asset Management clients can remove the assets we manage on short notice, we may experience unexpected declines in revenue and profitability.

Our investment advisory contracts are generally terminable upon very short notice. Institutional and individual clients, and firms with which we have strategic alliances, can terminate their relationship with us, reduce the aggregate amount of AUM or shift their funds to other types of accounts with different rate structures or to other investment management firms for a number of reasons, including investment performance relative to the market, prior years or other investment management firms, departures from or changes to the teams that manage our investment products, changes in prevailing interest rates and financial market performance or for no stated reason. In addition, the ability to terminate relationships may allow clients to renegotiate for lower fees paid for asset management services.

In addition, in the U.S., as required by the Investment Company Act, each of our investment advisory contracts with the mutual funds we advise or sub-advise automatically terminates upon its “assignment.” Each of our other investment advisory contracts subject to the provisions of the Investment Advisers Act provide, as required by the Investment Advisers Act, that the contract may not be “assigned” without the consent of the customer. A sale of a sufficiently large block of shares of our voting securities or other transactions could be deemed an “assignment” in certain circumstances. An assignment, actual or constructive, would trigger these termination provisions and could adversely affect our ability to continue managing client accounts.

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Access to clients through intermediaries and consultants is important to our Asset Management business, and reductions in referrals from such intermediaries or consultants or poor reviews of our products or our organization by such intermediaries or consultants could materially reduce our revenue and impair our ability to attract new clients.

Our ability to market our Asset Management services relies in part on receiving mandates from the client base of national and regional securities firms, banks, insurance companies, defined contribution plan administrators, investment consultants and other intermediaries. To an increasing extent, our Asset Management business uses referrals from accountants, lawyers, financial planners and other professional advisors. The inability to have this access could materially adversely affect our Asset Management business. In addition, many of these intermediaries and consultants review and evaluate our products and our organization. Poor reviews or evaluations of either the particular product or of us may result in client withdrawals or an inability to attract new clients through such intermediaries or consultants.

Our Asset Management business relies on non-affiliated third-party service providers.

Our Asset Management business has entered into service agreements with third-party service providers for client order management and the execution and settlement of client securities transactions. This business faces the risk of operational failure of any of our clearing agents, the exchanges, clearing houses or other intermediaries we use to facilitate our securities transactions. We oversee and manage these relationships. Poor oversight and control or inferior performance or service on the part of the service provider could result in loss of customers and violations of applicable rules and regulations. Any such failure could adversely affect our ability to effect transactions and to manage our exposure to risk.

We have investments, primarily through our private equity businesses, in relatively high-risk, illiquid assets, and we may lose some or all of the principal amount of these investments or fail to realize any profits from these investments for a considerable period of time.

We have made, and in the future may make, principal investments in public or private companies or in alternative investments (including private equity funds) established by us, and we continue to hold principal investments directly or through funds managed by certain affiliates of Lazard, including Edgewater, as well as third parties. Making principal investments is risky, and we may lose some or all of the principal amount of our investments. Certain of these types of investments may be in relatively high-risk, illiquid assets. Because it may take several years before attractive alternative investment opportunities are identified, some or all of the capital committed by us to these funds is likely to be invested in government securities, other short-term, highly-rated debt securities and money market funds that traditionally have offered investors relatively lower returns. In addition, these investments may be adjusted for accounting purposes to fair value at the end of each quarter, and any related gains or losses would affect our results of operations and could increase the volatility of our earnings, even though such fair value fluctuations may have no cash impact. It takes a substantial period of time to identify attractive alternative investment opportunities, to raise all the funds needed to make an investment and then to realize the cash value of an investment through resale. Even if an alternative investment proves to be profitable, it may be several years or longer before any profits can be realized in cash or other proceeds.

Our revenue from our private equity business is derived in part from management fees, which are calculated as a percentage of committed capital or invested capital depending on the stage of each respective fund. Transaction and advisory fees are also earned. Incentive fees are earned if investments are profitable over a specified threshold. Our ability to form new alternative investment funds is subject to a number of uncertainties, including past performance of our funds, market or economic conditions, competition from other fund managers and the ability to negotiate terms with major investors.

We may pursue new business lines, acquisitions, joint ventures, cooperation agreements or other growth or geographic expansion strategies that may result in additional risks and uncertainties in our business and could present unforeseen integration obstacles or costs.

We routinely assess our strategic position and may in the future pursue new business lines or seek acquisitions or other transactions or growth strategies to further enhance our competitive position. We have in the past pursued joint ventures and other transactions aimed at expanding the geography and scope of our operations. We expect to

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continue to explore new business lines, acquisitions, growth strategies and partnership or strategic alliance opportunities that we believe to be attractive.

Acquisitions, growth strategies, joint ventures and new business lines involve a number of risks and present financial, managerial and operational challenges. These risks and challenges include potential disruption of our ongoing business and distraction of management, difficulty integrating personnel and financial and other systems, difficulty hiring additional management and other critical personnel and other challenges arising from the increased scope, geographic diversity and complexity of our operations.

To the extent that we pursue business opportunities outside of the U.S. and our other principal business locations, including through acquisitions, joint ventures or other geographic expansion of our existing businesses, we may become subject to political, economic, legal, operational, regulatory and other risks that are inherent in operating in a foreign country, including risks of potential price, capital and currency exchange controls, licensing requirements and other regulatory restrictions, as well as the risk of hostile actions against or affecting our business or people. Our ability to remain in compliance with local laws in a particular foreign jurisdiction could adversely affect our businesses and our reputation.

In addition, our clients and other stakeholders may react unfavorably to our acquisition, growth and joint venture strategies or new business lines; we may not realize any anticipated benefits from such actions, we may be exposed to additional liabilities of any new business line, acquired business or joint venture; we may be exposed to litigation in connection with a new business line, acquisition, growth or joint venture transaction; and we may not be able to renew on similar terms (or at all) previously successful joint ventures or similar arrangements, any of which could materially adversely affect our business, financial position and results of operations.

An inability to access the debt and equity capital markets as a result of our debt obligations, credit ratings or other factors could impair our liquidity, increase our borrowing costs or otherwise adversely affect our financial position or results of operations.

As of December 31, 2020, Lazard Group and its subsidiaries had approximately $1.7 billion in debt outstanding, of which $400 million, $300 million, $500 million and $500 million relate to Lazard Group senior notes that mature in 2025, 2027, 2028 and 2029, respectively. This debt has certain mandated payment obligations, which may constrain our ability to operate our business. If we decide to redeem or retire this debt before maturity, we may be required to pay a significant premium to do so, which may adversely impact our earnings and affect our financial position. In addition, in the future we may need to incur debt or issue equity in order to fund our working capital requirements or refinance existing indebtedness, as well as to make acquisitions and other investments. The amount of our debt obligations may impair our ability to raise debt or issue equity for financing purposes. Our access to funds also may be impaired if regulatory or governmental authorities take significant action against us or for a variety of other possible reasons. In addition, our borrowing costs and our access to the debt capital markets depend significantly on our credit ratings. These ratings are assigned by rating agencies, which may reduce or withdraw their ratings or place us on “credit watch” with negative implications at any time.

The soundness of third parties, including our clients, as well as financial, governmental and other institutions, could adversely affect us.

We have exposure to many different industries, institutions, products and counterparties, and we routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including brokers and dealers, commercial banks, investment banks, mutual and hedge funds and other institutions. Many of these transactions expose us to credit risk in the event of default of our counterparty or client. In addition, our credit and settlement risk may be exacerbated when the collateral held by us, if any, cannot be fully realized or is liquidated at prices not sufficient to recover the full amount of the loan or derivative exposure due to us.

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Other operational risks may disrupt our businesses, result in regulatory action against us or limit our growth.

Our business is highly dependent on communications and information systems, including those of our vendors. Any failure or interruption of these systems, whether caused by fire, other natural disaster, power or telecommunications failure, act of terrorism or war, system modification or upgrade or a delay of any modification or upgrade or otherwise, could materially adversely affect our business. Although back-up systems are in place, our back-up procedures and capabilities in the event of a failure or interruption may not be adequate.

Particularly in our Asset Management business, we rely heavily on our financial, accounting, trading, compliance and other data processing systems and those of our third party vendors or service providers who support these functions. We expect that we will need to review whether to continue to upgrade and expand the capabilities of these systems in the future to avoid disruption of, or constraints on, our operations, and any such system upgrades or expansions could result in significant costs to us. We may need to hire additional staff in order to continue to upgrade or expand the capabilities of our systems, and failure to attract and retain staff with the proper skillset could disrupt or constrain our operations. Certain investment teams within our Asset Management business employ proprietary systems, including quantitative models, in connection with their investment processes. These systems and models are often designed and, with assistance from technology personnel, maintained by employees who are members of those investment teams. If any of the foregoing systems fail to operate properly or are disabled, including for reasons beyond our control, we could suffer financial loss, a disruption of our businesses, liability to clients, regulatory intervention or reputational damage. The inability of our systems (or those of our vendors or service providers) to accommodate an increasing volume of transactions also could constrain our ability to expand our businesses. In addition, errors resulting from these issues or from human error when conducting a trade or other transaction could expose us to significant risk.

In addition, if we were to experience a local or regional disaster or other business continuity problem, such as a pandemic or other man-made or natural disaster, our continued success will depend, in part, on the availability of our personnel and office facilities and the proper functioning of and remote accessibility to our computer, telecommunications, transaction processing and other information systems and operations, as well as those of third parties on whom we rely. Such events could lead us to experience operational challenges, and our inability to successfully recover could materially disrupt our businesses and cause material financial loss, regulatory actions, reputational harm or legal liability.

For additional information regarding operational risks with respect to our businesses, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Operational Risk” below.

Risks Related to Legal or Regulatory Factors and Taxation

Extensive regulation of our businesses limits our activities and results in ongoing exposure to the potential for significant penalties, including fines or limitations on our ability to conduct our businesses.

The financial services industry is subject to extensive regulation. We are subject to regulation by governmental and self-regulatory organizations in the jurisdictions in which we operate around the world. Many of these regulators, including U.S. and non-U.S. government agencies and self-regulatory organizations, as well as state securities commissions in the U.S., are empowered to conduct administrative proceedings that can result in censure, fine, the issuance of cease-and-desist orders or the suspension or expulsion of a regulated entity from registration or membership. The requirements imposed by our regulators are generally designed to ensure the integrity of the financial markets and to protect customers and other third parties who deal with us and not to protect our stockholders. Consequently, these regulations often serve to limit our activities, including through net capital, customer protection and market conduct requirements.

We face the risk of significant intervention by regulatory and governmental authorities, including extended investigation and surveillance activity, adoption of costly or restrictive new regulations and judicial or administrative proceedings that may result in substantial penalties. Among other things, we could be fined or be prohibited from engaging in some of our business activities. In addition, the regulatory environment in which we operate is subject to modification and further regulation. Such changes may increase the expenses that we incur without necessarily leading to commensurate increases in revenue and income. Certain laws and regulations within

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the U.S. and externally include extraterritorial application that may lead to overlapping or conflicting legal and regulatory burdens with additional risks and implementation expenses. New laws or regulations or changes in the enforcement of existing laws or regulations applicable to us and our clients also may adversely affect our business, and our ability to function in this environment will depend on our ability to continually monitor and react to these changes.

The U.S. and other governments and institutions have taken actions, and may in the future take further actions, in response to disruption and volatility in the global financial markets. Such further actions could include expanding current or enacting new standards, requirements and rules that may be applicable to us and our subsidiaries. The effect of any such expanded or new standards, requirements and rules is uncertain and could have adverse consequences to our business, financial condition and results of operations. While we continue to examine the requirements of new regulations that may become applicable to us in the U.S. and in the European Union (see “Business—Regulation” above), and previously announced actual or potential regulations that may be modified, we are not able to predict the ultimate effect on us.

The regulatory environment in which our clients operate may also impact our business. For example, changes in antitrust laws or the enforcement of antitrust laws could affect the level of M&A activity, and changes in state laws may limit investment activities of state pension plans. In addition, many tax laws and regulations have been modified, or are otherwise under review, in the U.S. and in many other jurisdictions in which we and our clients operate. Actual and proposed changes to these laws and regulations may affect the level of M&A activity, including cross-border M&A activity.

For asset management businesses in general, there have been a number of highly publicized cases involving fraud or other misconduct by employees of asset management firms, as well as industry-wide regulatory inquiries. These cases and inquiries have resulted in increased scrutiny in the industry and may result in new rules and regulations for mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity funds and their investment managers. This regulatory scrutiny and these rulemaking initiatives may result in an increase in operational and compliance costs or the risk of assessment of significant fines or penalties against our Asset Management business and may otherwise limit our ability to engage in certain activities.

Specific regulatory changes also may have a direct impact on the revenue of our Asset Management business. In addition to regulatory scrutiny and potential fines and sanctions, regulators continue to examine different aspects of the asset management industry. For example, the use of “soft dollars,” where a portion of commissions paid to broker-dealers in connection with the execution of client trades also pays for research and other eligible services that are used by investment advisors, has in the last several years been reexamined by different regulatory bodies and industry participants. Although a substantial portion of the research relied on by our Asset Management business in its investment decision-making processes is generated internally by our investment personnel, external research, including external research and other eligible services traditionally paid for with soft dollars, is also important to the process. This external research includes materials provided by broker-dealers and research firms, as well as eligible data and analytics services from various sources. In connection with the implementation of the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (“MiFID II”) in 2018, our Asset Management affiliates in France, Germany and the U.K. decided to pay for broker research services from their own resources. The ultimate impact of MiFID II and potential similar, future regulatory changes on our Asset Management business and on the financial industry as a whole remains uncertain, although it has reduced our ability to utilize commissions to pay for research services and other soft dollar services in certain European jurisdictions. Similar pressures may come from changes in the asset management industry itself, which may further increase our costs related to external research services. For the year ended December 31, 2020, our Asset Management business obtained research and other eligible services through third-party soft dollar arrangements, the total value of which we estimate to be approximately $23 million.

In addition, new regulations affecting the asset management business, including those regarding the management of U.S. mutual funds, hedge funds, UCITs funds and the use of certain investment products may impact our Asset Management business and result in increased costs. For example, the European Union has adopted updated directives on the coordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (“UCITS V”) with respect to various subjects. Among other things, UCITS V establishes remunerations policies that impact the structure of compensation for certain portfolio managers and other personnel within the Company. UCITS V also establishes certain regulations governing

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oversight and independence of depository functions. While these rules have already been implemented, they could further impact our personnel or result in changes to our operations, resulting in increased costs to the business. In addition, many regulators around the world, including those in the U.S., continue to adopt disclosure requirements impacting the asset management business, as well as changes to the laws, rules and regulations relating to recordkeeping and reporting obligations.

Legislators and regulators around the world continue to explore changes to, and additional oversight of, the financial industry generally. The impact of the potential changes on us are uncertain and may result in an increase in costs or a reduction of revenue associated with our businesses.

See “Business—Regulation” above for a further discussion of the regulatory environment in which we conduct our businesses.

The financial services industry faces substantial litigation and regulatory risks, and we may face damage to our professional reputation and legal liability if our services are not regarded as satisfactory or if conflicts of interest should arise.

As a financial services firm, we depend to a large extent on our relationships with our clients and our reputation for integrity and high-caliber professional services to attract and retain clients. As a result, if a client is not satisfied with our services, such dissatisfaction may be more damaging to our business than to other types of businesses. Moreover, our role as advisor to our clients on important transactions involves complex analysis and the exercise of professional judgment, including, if appropriate, rendering fairness opinions in connection with mergers and other transactions. Our role as advisor to our sovereign and government clients in particular may occasionally result in increased publicity of our involvement with, and our advice to, such clients.

In recent years, the volume of claims and amount of damages claimed in litigation and regulatory proceedings against financial advisors has increased. The activities of our Financial Advisory business may subject us to the risk of significant legal actions by our clients and third parties, including our clients’ stockholders, under securities or other laws. Such legal actions may include allegations relating to aiding and abetting breaches of fiduciary duties and to materially false or misleading statements or misrepresentations made in connection with securities and other transactions, including private placements. We may also be exposed to potential liability for the fairness opinions and other advice provided to participants in corporate transactions. In our Asset Management business, we make investment decisions on behalf of our clients, which could result in substantial losses. Many of our business activities may subject us to the risk of legal actions alleging negligence, misconduct, breach of fiduciary duty or breach of contract.

We increasingly confront actual and potential conflicts of interest relating to our Financial Advisory business, as well as to the fact that we have both a Financial Advisory business and an Asset Management business. Additionally, our pursuit of new business lines or other growth opportunities could result in additional actual or potential conflicts of interest. It is possible that actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest, including with respect to the use or disclosure of confidential information, could give rise to client dissatisfaction, litigation or regulatory or governmental enforcement actions, which could have the effect of limiting our business opportunities. Appropriately identifying and managing actual or perceived conflicts of interest is complex and difficult, and our reputation could be damaged if we fail, or appear to fail, to deal appropriately with one or more potential or actual conflicts of interest. We have adopted various policies, controls and procedures to address or limit actual or perceived conflicts of interest. However, these policies, controls and procedures may not be adhered to by our employees or be effective in reducing the applicable risks. Any failure of, or failure to adhere to, these policies, controls and procedures may result in regulatory or governmental sanctions or client litigation. We may also face competition from time to time from other financial services firms that do not operate under similar policies, controls and procedures.

Our Financial Advisory engagements typically include broad indemnities from our clients and provisions designed to limit our exposure to legal claims relating to our services, but these provisions may not protect us or may not be available or adhered to in all cases. We also are subject to claims arising from disputes with employees for alleged wrongful termination, discrimination or harassment, among other things. These risks often may be

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difficult to assess or quantify, and their existence and magnitude often remain unknown for substantial periods of time.

We may incur significant legal expenses in defending ourselves against litigation or regulatory or governmental action. Substantial legal liability or significant regulatory or governmental action against us could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations and cause significant reputational harm to us, which could seriously harm our business.

Employee misconduct, which is difficult to detect and deter, could harm us by impairing our ability to attract and retain clients and subjecting us to significant legal liability and reputational harm.

There have been a number of highly publicized cases involving fraud or other misconduct by employees in the financial services industry generally, and we run the risk that employee misconduct could occur in our business as well. For example, misconduct by employees could involve the improper use or disclosure of confidential information, which could result in legal action, regulatory sanctions and reputational or financial harm. Our Financial Advisory business often requires that we deal with confidences of great significance to our clients or their counterparties, improper use of which may harm our clients or our relationships with our clients. Any breach of confidences as a result of employee misconduct may adversely affect our reputation, impair our ability to attract and retain Financial Advisory clients and subject us to liability. Similarly, in our Asset Management business, we have authority over client assets, and we may, from time to time, have custody of such assets. In addition, we often have discretion to trade client assets on the client’s behalf and must do so acting in the best interests of the client. As a result, we are subject to a number of obligations and standards, and the violation of those obligations or standards may adversely affect our clients and us. It is difficult to detect and deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in all cases.

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC have also devoted greater resources to the enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In addition, the United Kingdom (the “U.K.”), France and other jurisdictions have expanded the reach of their anti-bribery laws. While we have developed and implemented policies and procedures designed to ensure compliance with anti-bribery and other laws, such policies and procedures may not be effective in all instances to prevent violations. Any determination that we have violated these laws could subject us to, among other things, civil and criminal penalties, material fines, profit disgorgement, injunction against future conduct, securities litigation and reputational damage, any one of which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

A failure in or breach of our information systems or infrastructure, or those of third parties with which we do business, including as a result of cyber attacks, could disrupt our businesses, lead to reputational harm and legal liability or otherwise impact our ability to operate our business.

Our operations rely on the secure processing, storage and transmission of confidential and other information involving our computer systems, hardware, software and networks, which we refer to as information systems, and involving the information systems of third parties with which we do business. Such information systems, which frequently include “cloud”-based networks and services, may be subject to unauthorized or fraudulent access, computer viruses or other malicious code or other threats, including “phishing” attempts, that are constantly evolving and that could have a security impact on us. There can be no assurance that we will not suffer material losses relating to cyber attacks on, or other security breaches involving, our information systems, or the information systems of third parties with which we do business, despite taking protective measures to prevent such breaches. The increased use of mobile technologies can heighten these and other operational risks. If a successful cyber attack or other security breach were to occur, our confidential or proprietary information, or the confidential or proprietary information of our clients or their counterparties, that is stored in, or transmitted through, such information systems could be compromised or misappropriated. Any such cyber attack or other security breach, or any disruption of or failure in the physical or logical infrastructure or operating systems that support such information systems or our businesses, could significantly impact our ability to operate our businesses and could result in reputational damage, legal liability, the loss of clients or business opportunities and financial losses that are either not insured against or not fully covered through any insurance maintained by us. Additionally, as geopolitical tensions rise, cyber retaliation between nation states can impact the business of those countries, which could adversely affect our business. As cyber threats continue to multiply, become more sophisticated and threaten additional aspects of our businesses, we may also be required to expend additional resources on information security and compliance costs in

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order to continue to modify or enhance our protective measures or to investigate and remediate any information security vulnerabilities or other exposures.

Failure to maintain effective internal controls in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act could materially adversely affect our business.

We have documented and tested our internal control procedures in order to satisfy the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires annual management assessments of the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting and a report by our independent auditors regarding our internal control over financial reporting. We are in compliance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act as of December 31, 2020. However, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal controls, as such standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to ensure that we can conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal controls over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Failure to maintain an effective internal control environment could materially adversely affect our business.

Uncertainty regarding the outcome of future arrangements between the European Union and the United Kingdom may adversely affect our business.

The Company has a significant presence in many European Union countries, including the U.K. The U.K. left the European Union on January 31, 2020. Prior to that date, the European Union and the U.K. entered into the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the “Trade and Cooperation Agreement”) and have stated that they intend to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a framework of regulatory co-operation by the end of March 2021. The commercial, regulatory and legal environment that the Company’s U.K. and European Union operations would be subject to may be impacted by the substance of the anticipated Memorandum of Understanding. Further adjustments to how the Company operates its business in the U.K. or the European Union may be necessary as a result of the anticipated Memorandum of Understanding, and any such changes could result in increased costs for the Company.

In the event of a change or adverse interpretation of relevant income tax law, regulation or treaty, or a failure to qualify for treaty benefits, our overall tax rate may be substantially higher than the rate used for purposes of our consolidated financial statements.

Our effective tax rate is based upon the application of currently applicable income tax laws, regulations and treaties, and current judicial and administrative interpretations of those income tax laws, regulations and treaties, and upon our non-U.S. subsidiaries’ ability to qualify for benefits, including reduced withholding tax rates, among other things, under those treaties, and that a portion of their income is not subject to U.S. tax as effectively connected income. Those income tax laws, regulations and treaties, and the administrative and judicial interpretations of them, are subject to change at any time, and any such change may be retroactive.

 

On December 22, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Tax Act”) was enacted. The Tax Act changed existing U.S. tax laws as applicable to us including several international provisions.  These provisions are complex and subject to varying interpretations that could adversely impact us. In addition, if we were to convert into a U.S. corporation, we could be subject to additional U.S. taxes, and future payments required under our tax receivable agreement could be accelerated, both of which could reduce the amount of our cash available for distribution or reinvestment.

In addition, the eligibility of our non-U.S. subsidiaries for treaty benefits generally depends upon, among other things, at least 50% of the principal class of shares in such subsidiaries being “ultimately owned” by U.S. citizens and persons who are “qualified residents” for purposes of a tax treaty. It is possible that this requirement may not be met, and even if it is met, we may not be able to document that fact to the satisfaction of the IRS. If our non-U.S. subsidiaries are not treated as eligible for treaty benefits, such subsidiaries will be subject to additional U.S. taxes, including “branch profits tax” on their “effectively connected earnings and profits” (as determined for U.S. federal income tax purposes) at a rate of 30% rather than a treaty rate of 5%.

Multiple levels of government, foreign legislatures and international organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) and the European Union, are increasingly focused on tax reform and have proposed and implemented tax legislation and regulations that could affect the taxation of

31


multinational companies. For example, the enactment of all or part of the recommendations set forth or that may be introduced in the OECD project on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting by tax authorities in the countries in which we operate could unfavorably impact our overall tax rate. In addition, the Economic Substance Act came into effect in Bermuda on January 1, 2019. This new law requires companies registered in Bermuda carrying on one or more “relevant activities” to maintain a substantial economic presence in Bermuda and to satisfy economic substance requirements. The list of “relevant activities” includes carrying on as a business any one or more of: banking, insurance, fund management, financing, leasing, headquarters, shipping, distribution and service center, intellectual property and holding entities. At present, it is unclear which additional measures, if any, we would be required to take in order to satisfy the relevant requirements in Bermuda. Any implementation of, or changes to, any such laws, regulations and treaties that impact us could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Tax authorities may challenge our tax computations and classifications, our transfer pricing methods and our application of related policies and methods.

Our tax returns are subject to audit by federal, local and foreign tax authorities. These authorities may successfully challenge certain tax positions or deductions taken by our subsidiaries. For example, tax authorities may contest intercompany allocations of fee income, management charges or interest charges among affiliates in different tax jurisdictions. While we believe that we have provided the appropriate required reserves (see Note 2 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements), it is possible that a tax authority may disagree with all, or a portion, of the tax benefits claimed. If a tax authority were to successfully challenge our positions, it could result in significant additional tax costs or payments under the tax receivable agreement described below.

In addition, there are additional transfer pricing and standardized country-by-country reporting requirements being implemented. Additional information from country-by-country reporting, certain local information-sharing arrangements and other documentation held by tax authorities is expected to be subject to greater information-sharing arrangements, and any challenges from tax authorities reviewing such information could adversely impact our overall tax obligations or our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Our subsidiaries may be required to make payments under the Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement. The IRS may challenge the tax benefits that give rise to such payments and, under certain circumstances, our subsidiaries may have made or could make payments under the Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement in excess of our subsidiaries’ cash tax savings.

As further discussed in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates—Income Taxes” and Note 21 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, the Second Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement, dated as of October 26, 2015 (the “Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement”), between Lazard and LTBP Trust, a Delaware statutory trust (the “Trust”), provides for the payment by our subsidiaries to the Trust of a significant portion of the cash savings, if any, in U.S. federal, state and local income tax or franchise tax that we actually realize as a result of certain tax benefits that are subject to the Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement. Any amount paid by our subsidiaries to the Trust will generally be distributed to the owners of the Trust, including certain of our executive officers, in proportion to their beneficial interests in the Trust. If the IRS successfully challenges the tax benefits described above, under certain circumstances, our subsidiaries may have made or could make payments under the Amended and Restated Tax Receivable Agreement in excess of our subsidiaries’ cash tax savings.

32


Risks Relating to Our Capital Structure

Lazard Ltd is a holding company and, accordingly, depends upon distributions from Lazard Group to pay dividends and taxes and other expenses.

Lazard Ltd is a holding company and has no independent means of generating significant revenue. We control Lazard Group through our indirect control of both of the managing members of Lazard Group. Our subsidiaries incur income taxes on the net taxable income of Lazard Group in their respective tax jurisdictions. We intend to continue to cause Lazard Group to make distributions to our subsidiaries in an amount sufficient to cover all applicable taxes payable by us and dividends, if any, declared by us. To the extent that our subsidiaries need funds to pay taxes on their share of Lazard Group’s net taxable income, or if Lazard Ltd needs funds for any other purpose, and Lazard Group is restricted from making such distributions under applicable law or regulation, or is otherwise unable to provide such funds, it could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Lazard Group is a holding company and therefore depends on its subsidiaries to make distributions to Lazard Group to enable it to service its obligations under its indebtedness.

Lazard Group depends on its subsidiaries, which conduct the operations of its businesses, for distributions, dividends and other payments to generate the funds necessary to meet its financial obligations, including payments of principal and interest on its indebtedness. However, none of Lazard Group’s subsidiaries is obligated to make funds available to it for servicing such financial obligations, and the group of entities that constitute Lazard Group’s subsidiaries may change over time. The earnings from, or other available assets of, Lazard Group’s subsidiaries may not be sufficient to pay dividends or make distributions or loans to enable Lazard Group to make payments with respect to its financial obligations when such payments are due. In addition, even if such earnings were sufficient, the agreements governing the current and future obligations of Lazard Group’s subsidiaries, regulatory requirements, including regulatory capital requirements, with respect to our broker-dealer and other regulated subsidiaries, foreign exchange controls and a variety of other factors may impede our subsidiaries’ ability to provide Lazard Group with sufficient dividends, distributions or loans to fund its financial obligations, when due.


33


 

SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

We have made statements under the captions “Business,” “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and in other sections of this Form 10-K that are forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify these statements by forward-looking words such as “may,” “might,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “expect,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential,” “target,” “goal” or “continue,” and the negative of these terms and other comparable terminology. These forward-looking statements, which are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions about us, may include projections of our future financial performance based on our growth strategies, business plans and initiatives and anticipated trends in our business. These statements, including with respect to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, are only predictions based on our current expectations and projections about future events. There are important factors that could cause our actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements to differ materially from the results, level of activity, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. These factors include, but are not limited to, the numerous risks and uncertainties outlined in “Risk Factors,” including the following:

 

a decline in general economic conditions or the global or regional financial markets;

 

a decline in our revenues, for example due to a decline in overall M&A activity, our share of the M&A market or our AUM;

 

losses caused by financial or other problems experienced by third parties;

 

losses due to unidentified or unanticipated risks;

 

a lack of liquidity, i.e., ready access to funds, for use in our businesses; and

 

competitive pressure on our businesses and on our ability to retain and attract employees at current compensation levels.

These risks and uncertainties are not exhaustive. Other sections of this Form 10-K describe additional factors that could adversely affect our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risks and uncertainties emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for our management to predict all risks and uncertainties, nor can management assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.

Although we believe the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future results, level of activity, performance or achievements. Moreover, neither we nor any other person assumes responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any of these forward-looking statements. You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. We are under no duty to update any of these forward-looking statements after the date of this Form 10-K to conform our prior statements to actual results or revised expectations and we do not intend to do so.

Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:

 

financial goals, including ratios of compensation and benefits expense to operating revenue;

 

ability to deploy surplus cash through dividends, share repurchases and debt repurchases;

 

ability to offset stockholder dilution through share repurchases;

 

possible or assumed future results of operations and operating cash flows;

 

strategies and investment policies;

 

financing plans and the availability of short-term borrowing;

 

competitive position;

 

future acquisitions, including the consideration to be paid and the timing of consummation;

34


 

 

potential growth opportunities available to our businesses;

 

potential impact of investments in our technology infrastructure and data science capabilities;

 

recruitment and retention of our managing directors and employees;

 

potential levels of compensation expense, including awarded compensation and benefits expense and adjusted compensation and benefits expense, and non-compensation expense;

 

potential operating performance, achievements, productivity improvements, efficiency and cost reduction efforts;

 

likelihood of success and impact of litigation;

 

expected tax rates, including effective tax rates;

 

changes in interest and tax rates;

 

availability of certain tax benefits, including certain potential deductions;

 

potential impact of certain events or circumstances on our financial statements and operations, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic;

 

changes in foreign currency exchange rates;

 

expectations with respect to the economy, the securities markets, the market for mergers, acquisitions, restructuring and other financial advisory activity, the market for asset management activity and other macroeconomic, regional and industry trends;

 

effects of competition on our business; and

 

impact of new or future legislation and regulation, including tax laws and regulations, on our business.

The Company is committed to providing timely and accurate information to the investing public, consistent with our legal and regulatory obligations. To that end, the Company uses its website, its twitter account (twitter.com/Lazard) and other social media sites to convey information about our businesses, including the anticipated release of quarterly financial results, quarterly financial, statistical and business-related information, and the posting of updates of AUM in our Asset Management business. Investors can link to Lazard Ltd, Lazard Group and their operating company websites through http://www.lazard.com. Our websites and social media sites and the information contained therein or connected thereto shall not be deemed to be incorporated into this Form 10-K.

Item 1B.Unresolved Staff Comments

There are no unresolved written comments that were received from the SEC staff 180 days or more before December 31, 2020 relating to our periodic or current reports under the Exchange Act.

 

 

35


 

Item 2.

Properties

Lazard has offices located around the world. The following table lists the principal properties used for the Lazard organization as of December 31, 2020. As a general matter, one or both of our Financial Advisory and Asset Management segments (as well as our Corporate segment) uses the following properties. Our London office subleases 71,207 square feet to third parties. Our Paris office has entered into a lease agreement with a third party with respect to 96,132 square feet of owned property, which is expected to commence no earlier than November 2022. We remain fully liable for the subleased space to the extent that the subtenants fail to perform their obligations under the subleases for any reason.

 

Location

 

Square Footage

 

Offices

New York City

 

438,870 square feet of

leased space

 

Principal office located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza

Paris

 

270,994 square feet of

owned and leased space

 

Principal offices located at 175 Boulevard Haussmann and 25 rue de Courcelles

London

 

142,471 square feet of

leased space

 

Principal office located at 50 Stratton Street

 

Item 3.

The Company is involved from time to time in judicial, governmental, regulatory and arbitration proceedings and inquiries concerning matters arising in connection with the conduct of our businesses, including proceedings initiated by former employees alleging wrongful termination. The Company reviews such matters on a case-by-case basis and establishes any required accrual if a loss is probable and the amount of such loss can be reasonably estimated. The Company experiences significant variation in its revenue and earnings on an annual basis. Accordingly, the results of any pending matter or matters could be significant when compared to the Company’s earnings in any particular fiscal year. The Company believes, however, based on currently available information, that the results of any pending matters, in the aggregate, will not have a material effect on its business or financial condition.

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

 

 

36


Part II

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Our common stock is traded on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LAZ.”

As of January 29, 2021, there were approximately 21 holders of record of our common stock. This does not include the number of shareholders that hold shares in “street-name” through banks or broker-dealers.

On January 29, 2021, the last reported sales price for our common stock on the New York Stock Exchange was $41.20 per share.

Share Repurchases in the Fourth Quarter of 2020

The following table sets forth information regarding Lazard’s purchases of its common stock on a monthly basis during the fourth quarter of 2020. Share repurchases are recorded on a trade date basis.

 

Period

 

Total

Number

of Shares

Purchased

 

 

Average

Price Paid

per Share

 

 

Total Number

of Shares

Purchased

as Part of

Publicly

Announced

Plans or

Programs

 

 

Approximate

Dollar Value of

Shares that May

Yet Be Purchased

Under the Plans or

Programs (3)

October 1 – October 31, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share Repurchase Program (1)

 

 

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

305.6

 

million

Employee Transactions (2)

 

 

27,897

 

 

$

36.47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 1 – November 30, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share Repurchase Program (1)

 

 

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

305.6

 

million

Employee Transactions (2)

 

 

11

 

 

$

36.45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 1 – December 31, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share Repurchase Program (1)

 

 

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

300.0

 

million

Employee Transactions (2)

 

 

2,945

 

 

$

37.31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share Repurchase Program (1)

 

 

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

300.0

 

million

Employee Transactions (2)

 

 

30,853

 

 

$

36.55

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1)

Since 2018 and through the year ended December 31, 2020, the Board of Directors of Lazard authorized the repurchase of common stock as set forth in the table below. 

 

Date

 

Repurchase

Authorization

 

 

Expiration

 

 

($ in thousands)

 

 

 

April 2018

 

$

300,000

 

 

December 31, 2020

October 2018

 

$

300,000

 

 

December 31, 2020

February 2019

 

$

300,000

 

 

December 31, 2020

October 2019

 

$

300,000

 

 

December 31, 2021

 

37


 

A significant portion of the Company’s purchases under the share repurchase program are used to offset a portion of the shares that have been or will be issued under Lazard Ltd’s 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan (the “2008 Plan”) and 2018 Incentive Compensation Plan (the “2018 Plan”). Purchases under the share repurchase program may be made in the open market or through privately negotiated transactions. The rate at which the Company purchases shares in connection with the share repurchase program may vary from quarter to quarter due to a variety of factors. Amounts shown in this line item include repurchases of common stock and exclude the shares of common stock withheld by the Company to meet the minimum statutory tax withholding requirements as described below.

(2)

Under the terms of the 2008 Plan and the 2018 Plan, upon the vesting of RSUs, PRSUs, deferred stock units (“DSUs”) and delivery of restricted common stock, shares of common stock may be withheld by the Company to meet the minimum statutory tax withholding requirements. During the three month period ended December 31, 2020, the Company satisfied such obligations in lieu of issuing (i) 5,821 shares of common stock upon the vesting or settlement of 11,428 RSUs and (ii) 25,032 shares of common stock upon the vesting of 51,118 shares of restricted common stock.

(3)

Reflects expiration of $5.6 million share repurchase authorization on December 31, 2020.

During the year ended December 31, 2020, the Company had in place trading plans under Rule 10b5-1 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), pursuant to which it effected stock repurchases in the open market.

Equity Compensation Plan Information

See Item 12, “Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters—Equity Compensation Plan Information.”

Stock Performance

The stock performance graph below compares the performance of an investment in our common stock, from December 31, 2015 through December 31, 2020, with that of the S&P 500 Index and the S&P Financial Index. The graph assumes $100 was invested at the close of business on December 31, 2015 in each of our common stock, the S&P 500 Index and the S&P Financial Index. It also assumes that dividends were reinvested on the date of payment without payment of any commissions. The performance shown in the graph represents past performance and should not be considered an indication of future performance.

 

 

Other Matters

None.

38


Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

Not applicable due to early adoption of amendment to Regulation S-K, Item 301.

 

 

39


Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with Lazard Ltd’s consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Form 10-K”). This discussion contains forward-looking statements that are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Actual results and the timing of events may differ significantly from those expressed or implied in such forward-looking statements due to a number of factors, including those set forth in the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” and elsewhere in this Form 10-K.

Business Summary

Lazard is one of the world’s preeminent financial advisory and asset management firms. We have long specialized in crafting solutions to the complex financial and strategic challenges of a diverse set of clients around the world, including corporations, governments, institutions, partnerships and individuals. Founded in 1848 in New Orleans, we currently operate from more than 40 cities and 25 countries across key business and financial centers in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Central and South America.

Our primary business purpose is to serve our clients. Our deep roots in business centers around the world form a global network of relationships with key decision-makers in corporations, governments and investing institutions. This network is both a competitive strength and a powerful resource for Lazard and our clients. As a firm that competes on the quality of our advice, we have two fundamental assets: our people and our reputation.

We operate in cyclical businesses across multiple geographies, industries and asset classes. In recent years, we have expanded our geographic reach, bolstered our industry expertise and continued to build in growth areas. Companies, government bodies and investors seek independent advice with a geographic perspective, deep understanding of capital structure, informed research and knowledge of global, regional and local economic conditions. We believe that our business model as an independent advisor will continue to create opportunities for us to attract new clients and key personnel.

Our principal sources of revenue are derived from activities in the following business segments:

 

Financial Advisory, which offers corporate, partnership, institutional, government, sovereign and individual clients across the globe a wide array of financial advisory services regarding mergers and acquisitions (“M&A”), capital advisory, restructurings, shareholder advisory, sovereign advisory, capital raising and other strategic advisory matters, and

 

Asset Management, which offers a broad range of global investment solutions and investment management services in equity and fixed income strategies, asset allocation strategies, alternative investments and private equity funds to corporations, public funds, sovereign entities, endowments and foundations, labor funds, financial intermediaries and private clients.

In addition, we record selected other activities in our Corporate segment, including management of cash, investments, deferred tax assets, outstanding indebtedness, certain contingent obligations, and assets and liabilities associated with Lazard Group’s Paris-based subsidiary, Lazard Frères Banque SA (“LFB”).

Our consolidated net revenue was derived from the following segments:

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Financial Advisory

 

 

55

%

 

 

53

%

 

 

55

%

Asset Management

 

 

46

 

 

 

48

 

 

 

47

 

Corporate

 

 

(1

)

 

 

(1

)

 

 

(2

)

Total

 

 

100

%

 

 

100

%

 

 

100

%

 

We also invest our own capital from time to time, generally alongside capital of qualified institutional and individual investors in alternative investments or private equity investments, and, since 2005, we have engaged in a number of alternative investments and private equity activities, including, historically, investments through (i)  

40


Edgewater, our Chicago-based private equity firm and (ii) a fund targeting significant noncontrolling-stake investments in established private companies. We also make investments to seed our Asset Management strategies.

Business Environment and Outlook

Economic and global financial market conditions can materially affect our financial performance. As described above, our principal sources of revenue are derived from activities in our Financial Advisory and Asset Management business segments. As our Financial Advisory revenues are primarily dependent on the successful completion of merger, acquisition, restructuring, capital raising or similar transactions, and our Asset Management revenues are primarily driven by the levels of assets under management (“AUM”), weak economic and global financial market conditions can result in a challenging business environment for M&A and capital-raising activity as well as our Asset Management business, but may provide opportunities for our restructuring business.

During the year ended December 31, 2020, the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic had a negative impact on economic activity around the world. Governments and central banks have taken extraordinary measures to support local economies and capital markets, but the macroeconomic outlook remains uncertain while significant health risks persist.

Lazard’s offices around the world have continued to operate in the context of applicable local regulations and guidelines regarding business activity, and during the year ended December 31, 2020, the majority of our employees worked remotely.

While the global M&A market strengthened in the fourth quarter of 2020, we continue to expect a challenging business environment in the near term due to elevated uncertainty and capital markets volatility.

Our outlook with respect to our Financial Advisory and Asset Management businesses is described below.

 

Financial Advisory—During this period of financial stress and uncertainty, we are focused on serving clients with our depth of expertise in capital structure, capital raising, debt negotiations and restructuring and exchange offers. Announced M&A transaction volumes are recovering in both the U.S. and Europe, particularly in France and the U.K., but we still expect there to be elevated uncertainty in the near term due to the ongoing health crisis. However, fiscal and monetary stimulus in developed countries and the rollout of vaccines globally are creating some optimism and increased CEO confidence. The global scale and breadth of our Financial Advisory business allows us to advise on a wide range of strategic and restructuring transactions across a variety of industries. In addition, we continue to invest in our Financial Advisory business by selectively hiring talented senior professionals and continuing to focus on our M&A, restructuring and other advisory services.

 

Asset Management—In the short to intermediate term, we normally would expect most investor demand to come through financial institutions, and from defined benefit and defined contribution plans in developed economies because of their sheer scope and size. However, continued uncertainties in capital markets arising from the COVID-19 pandemic may negatively impact our business in a manner that we cannot predict. Over the longer term, and depending upon local and global market conditions, we would expect an increasing share of our AUM to come from the developing economies around the globe, as their retirement systems evolve and individual wealth is increasingly deployed in the financial markets. Given our diversified investment platform and our ability to provide investment solutions for a global mix of clients, we believe we are positioned to benefit from opportunities across the asset management industry despite the current challenges that markets have created for that industry. We are continually developing new investment strategies that extend our existing platforms and assessing potential product acquisitions or other inorganic growth opportunities. Among other efforts, we have been particularly focused on continuing to incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance (“ESG”) considerations, as appropriate, into our investment research and launching strategies that use ESG and sustainability factors to drive long-term investment returns. In addition to these new ESG and sustainable strategies, recent examples of growth initiatives include the following: various Quantitative Equity strategies, new convertible bond strategies, thematically oriented strategies and a new long/short credit strategy.

41


We operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risks and uncertainties emerge continuously, and it is not possible for our management to predict all risks and uncertainties, nor can we assess the impact of all potentially applicable factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. See Item 1A, “Risk Factors” in this Form 10-K. Furthermore, net income and revenue in any period may not be indicative of full-year results or the results of any other period and may vary significantly from year to year and quarter to quarter.

Overall, we continue to focus on the development of our business, including the generation of stable revenue growth, earnings growth and shareholder returns, the evaluation of potential growth opportunities, the investment in new technology to support the development of existing and new business opportunities, the prudent management of our costs and expenses, the efficient use of our assets and the return of capital to our shareholders.

Certain market data with respect to our Financial Advisory and Asset Management businesses is included below.

Financial Advisory

As reflected in the following table, which sets forth global M&A industry statistics, the value and number of all completed transactions, including the subset of completed transactions involving values greater than $500 million, decreased in 2020 as compared to 2019. With respect to announced M&A transactions, the value and number of all transactions, including the subset of announced transactions involving values greater than $500 million, decreased in 2020 as compared to 2019.

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

%

Incr / (Decr)

 

 

 

($ in billions)

 

Completed M&A Transactions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All deals:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Value

 

$

3,255

 

 

$

3,814

 

 

 

(15

)%

Number

 

 

30,867

 

 

 

36,906

 

 

 

(16

)%

Deals Greater than $500 million:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Value

 

$

2,491

 

 

$

2,945

 

 

 

(15

)%

Number

 

 

1,023