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f-                                                                                                                                        

 

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, 2019

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)

OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from ___________ to ___________

Commission file number 001-33812

 

MSCI INC.

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

 

13-4038723

(State or Other Jurisdiction of

Incorporation or Organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification Number)

 

7 World Trade Center

250 Greenwich Street, 49th Floor

New York, New York 10007

(Address of Principal Executive Offices, zip code)

(212) 804-3900

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

 

Trading Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common stock, par value $0.01 per share

 

MSCI

 

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 Section 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 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 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 is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).     YES       NO  

The aggregate market value of Common Stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter (based on the closing price of these securities as reported by The New York Stock Exchange on June 30, 2019) was $19,627,001,148. Shares of Common Stock held by executive officers and directors of the registrant are not included in the computation. However, the registrant has made no determination that such individuals are “affiliates” within the meaning of Rule 405 under the Securities Act of 1933.

As of February 11, 2020, there were 84,808,104 shares of the registrant’s Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share, outstanding.

Documents incorporated by reference: Portions of the registrant’s proxy statement for its annual meeting of stockholders, to be held on April 28, 2020, are incorporated herein by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.

 

 

 


 

MSCI INC.

FORM 10-K

FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2019

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

PART I

 

 

Item 1.

 

Business

 

1

Item 1A.

 

Risk Factors

 

12

Item 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

26

Item 2.

 

Properties

 

26

Item 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

 

26

Item 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

26

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

Item 5.

 

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

 

27

Item 6.

 

Selected Financial Data

 

31

Item 7.

 

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

 

33

Item 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

55

Item 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

55

Item 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

55

Item 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

56

Item 9B.

 

Other Information

 

56

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

Item 10.

 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

57

Item 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

57

Item 12.

 

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

 

57

Item 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

57

Item 14.

 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

57

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

Item 15.

 

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

 

58

Item 16.

 

Form 10-K Summary

 

74

 

Except as the context otherwise indicates, the terms “MSCI,” the “Company,” “we,” “our” and “us” refer to MSCI Inc. together with its subsidiaries.

 

 

 

 


 

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

We have included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and from time to time may make in our public filings, press releases or other public statements, certain statements that constitute forward-looking statements. In addition, our management may make forward-looking statements to analysts, investors, representatives of the media and others. These forward-looking statements are not historical facts and represent only MSCI’s beliefs regarding future events, many of which, by their nature, are inherently uncertain and beyond our control.

In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “may,” “could,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “seek,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential” or “continue,” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology.  Statements concerning our financial position, business strategy and plans or objectives for future operations are forward-looking statements. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are, in some cases, beyond our control and that could materially affect our actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Such risks and uncertainties include those set forth under “Risk Factors” in Part I, Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The forward-looking statements in this report speak only as of the time they are made and do not necessarily reflect our outlook at any other point in time. We undertake no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or for any other reason. Therefore, readers should carefully review the risk factors set forth in other reports or documents we file from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”).

 

 

PART I

 

Item 1.

Business

 

Mission

 

MSCI’s mission is to enable investors to build better portfolios for a better world.

 

Overview

 

We are a leading provider of critical decision support tools and services for the global investment community.  Leveraging our knowledge of the global investment process and our expertise in research, data and technology, our actionable solutions1 power better investment decisions by enabling our clients to understand and analyze key drivers of risk and return and confidently and efficiently build more effective portfolios.

 

Investors all over the world use our tools and services to gain insight and improve transparency throughout their investment processes, including to help define their investment universe, inform and analyze their asset allocation and portfolio construction decisions, measure and manage portfolio performance and risk, conduct performance attribution, implement sustainable and other investment strategies, design and issue exchange traded funds (“ETFs”) and other index-enabled financial products, and facilitate reporting to stakeholders.  

 

Our industry-leading, research-enhanced products and services include indexes; portfolio construction and risk management analytics; environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) research and ratings; and real estate benchmarks, return-analytics and market insights.  Through our integrated franchise we provide solutions across our products and services to support our clients’ dynamic and complex needs.  We are flexible in the delivery of our content and capabilities, much of which can be accessed by our clients through multiple channels and platforms.  

 

We are focused on staying at the forefront of investment trends to address the evolving needs of our clients in a changing industry.  In order to most effectively serve our clients, we are committed to driving an integrated solutions-based approach, achieving service excellence, enhancing our differentiated research and content, and delivering flexible, cutting-edge technology and platforms.    

 

 

1 

The term “solutions” as used throughout this Annual Report on Form 10-K refers to the use of our products or services by our clients to help them achieve their objectives.

1


 

Clients

 

Our clients comprise a wide spectrum of the global investment industry and include the following key client types:

 

 

Asset owners (pension funds, endowments, foundations, central banks, sovereign wealth funds, family offices and insurance companies)

 

Asset managers (institutional funds and accounts, mutual funds, hedge funds, ETFs, insurance products, private banks and real estate investment trusts)

 

Financial intermediaries (banks, broker-dealers, exchanges, custodians, trust companies and investment consultants)

 

Wealth managers (including an increasing number of “robo-advisors”)

 

As of December 31, 2019, we served over 7,500 clients2 in more than 85 countries. For the year ended December 31, 2019, our largest client organization by revenue, BlackRock, accounted for 11.5% of our total revenues, with 94.5% of the revenue from BlackRock coming from fees based on the assets in BlackRock’s ETFs that are based on our indexes.  

 

Industry Trends and Competitive Advantages

 

We believe we are uniquely positioned to benefit from emerging trends and to help our clients adapt to a large and rapidly expanding and evolving investment industry. Investing has grown in complexity, with more choices across asset classes, security types and geographies. Investors are increasingly looking outside their home countries, and the access to and diversity of investment choices are growing. As a result, the investment process is transforming, reflected in a number of significant changes, including:

 

 

Changing client operating models and business strategies, including an increased focus on ESG, factors and private asset investments, driven in part by fee compression, changing demographics and economics

 

Increasing focus on global and multi-asset class investing as investors seek outcome-oriented results

 

Increasing integration of ESG considerations into investment processes and products as sustainable investing goes mainstream

 

Continuing growth of index-based investing and assets in ETFs and other vehicles that seek to replicate an index as investors increasingly seek lower-cost investment strategies

 

Growing use of advanced technologies to enhance investment analytics and streamline operations

 

We believe the following competitive advantages position us well to meet client demands in light of these trends:

 

 

Differentiated research-enhanced content, which is integral to the solutions we provide to clients to help them adapt to a fast-changing marketplace. We are continually developing a wide range of differentiated content and have amassed an extensive database of historical global market data, proprietary equity index data, factor models, private real estate assets benchmark data, risk algorithms and ESG data, all of which are critical components of our clients’ investment processes. This content is grounded in our deep knowledge of the global investment process and fueled by experienced research and product development and data management teams. We consult with clients and other market participants to discuss their needs, investment trends and implications for our business.

 

2 

To calculate the number of clients, we use the shipping address of the ultimate customer utilizing the product which counts affiliates, user locations, or business units within a single organization as separate clients.  If we aggregate all related clients under their respective parent entity, the number of clients would be over 4,200 as of December 31, 2019.

2


 

 

Strong client relationships supported by a client coverage team with significant experience in the industry. This team builds and maintains strong and trusted client relationships with senior executives and investment professionals at the world’s largest investment institutions. We believe that these relationships and our global operating footprint are competitive advantages that enable us to tailor our coverage initiatives to better serve our clients in the markets in which they operate.

 

 

Flexible, scalable, cutting-edge technology that is developed and enhanced by a global team of sophisticated technology and data professionals. Our technology enables clients to use content created by MSCI, themselves and third parties in an efficient manner and thereby helps them be more cost-effective in their own operations. Our technology allows us to continually improve our overall products and services by more efficiently processing data for distribution and ensuring advanced platform flexibility that provides for easy integration of our solutions into clients’ workflows. We continue to attract experienced talent within our technology team by hiring employees who will help us accelerate the pace of innovation, expand our program management capabilities and enhance the technology driving our content creation.

Strategy

We provide the tools and solutions that enable investors to take advantage of the transformation taking place in the investment industry, helping them better understand performance and risk, become more effective and efficient at building portfolios and achieve their investment objectives. In particular, we are focused on delivering actionable and integrated client solutions with the following key initiatives:

 

 

Expand leadership in research-enhanced content across asset classes. We continue to deliver solutions that incorporate multiple areas of content and are supported by rich insights from our research and product development team. In addition to continuing to enhance our position as a leader with respect to tools and services for equity investors globally, our strategic priorities with respect to content are global equities, ESG, factors, fixed income and private assets, all of which represent significant growth opportunities. We have invested in expanding performance and risk capabilities and content across asset classes, which will allow us to provide more tools to our clients that help them pursue and achieve their investment objectives.

 

 

Improve distribution and content-enabling technology. We have and will continue to invest in the development and use of advanced technology to drive integration and efficiencies, accelerate innovation and enhance the client experience. In addition, we increasingly employ proprietary and third-party machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance our ability to gather and analyze data and automate and enhance the efficiency of many of our data processes. See Part I, Item 1. “Business—Technology” below for additional information.

 

 

Strengthen existing client relationships and grow by developing new ones. In support of our solutions-driven strategy, we continue to grow our existing offerings by cultivating and expanding relationships across our client base and serving the needs of different client types across multiple asset classes. We remain focused on building the strength and knowledge of our client coverage team to enable them to educate our clients on the full breadth of our content and capabilities and how using complementary tools can help clients analyze performance and risk across asset classes and geographies. We continue to prioritize relationships with key growth client groups such as private assets, wealth and listed derivatives, and in fast-growing regions, such as Asia. In 2019, we made a significant key senior hire in Asia and transitioned other senior management in the region, which we believe will help expand our presence in the market. We also entered into agreements with key strategic clients who are creating exchange-listed and index-based futures and options based on our indexes to help industry participants manage investment risk.

 

 

Execute strategic relationships and acquisitions with complementary content and technology companies.  We regularly evaluate and selectively pursue strategic relationships with, and acquisitions of, providers of unique and differentiated content, products and technologies that we believe have the potential to complement, enhance or expand our offerings and client base. In order to drive value, we target acquisitions and strategic relationships that can be efficiently integrated into our existing operational structure and global sales network. In 2019, we completed the acquisition of Carbon Delta AG, an environmental fintech and data analytics company. This acquisition enhanced our existing ESG offerings

3


 

 

with expert climate change scenario analysis and allowed us to expand our climate risk assessment and reporting offerings.

 

Financial Model

 

We have an attractive financial model due to our recurring revenue and strong cash generation. Clients purchase our products and services primarily through recurring fixed and variable fee arrangements, a business model which has historically delivered stable revenue and predictable cash flows. Finally, our disciplined capital-allocation policy provides us with flexibility to balance internal resources and investment needs, acquisitions and shareholder returns through dividends and opportunistic share repurchases.

 

Operating Segments

 

As the investment industry becomes more global and investors become increasingly focused on multi-asset-class portfolios, we believe we are well positioned to help our clients achieve their investment objectives by powering a more comprehensive analysis of their investment strategies using the content, applications and services across our four operating segments — Index, Analytics, ESG and Real Estate. For reporting purposes, the ESG and Real Estate operating segments are combined and presented as All Other as they do not meet the thresholds for separate presentation.

Our principal business model is generally to license annual, recurring subscriptions for the majority of our Index, Analytics and ESG products and services for a fee due in advance of the service period. We also license annual recurring subscriptions for the majority of our Real Estate products for a fee which is primarily paid in arrears after the product is delivered, with the exception of the Market Information product for which the fees are generally paid in advance. A portion of our fees comes from clients who use our indexes as the basis for index-linked investment products. Such fees are primarily based on a client’s assets under management (“AUM”) and trading volumes. See Part II, Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Overview” and Note 1, “Introduction and Basis of Presentation—Significant Accounting PoliciesRevenue Recognition,” of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements included herein for further information on how we generate revenue and our revenue recognition policy.

Our business model is susceptible to market movements that affect our AUM revenue, which generally have more influence on our revenues than seasonality.

 

Index

 

Clients use our indexes in many areas of the investment process, including index-linked product creation (e.g., ETFs and futures and options), performance benchmarking, portfolio construction and rebalancing, broker-dealer structured products and asset allocation. We currently calculate more than 226,0003 end-of-day indexes daily and more than 12,000 indexes in real time for a variety of markets and industries. Clients receive index data directly from us or from third-party vendors worldwide.

 

Our indexes include:

 

MSCI Global Equity Indexes are designed to measure returns across a wide variety of equity markets, size segments, sectors and industries.  As of December 31, 2019, we calculated indexes that covered more than 85 countries in developed, emerging, frontier and standalone markets, as well as various regional indexes built from the component indexes.

 

Factor Indexes are created using the Barra Equity Models from our Analytics segment to address a growing trend among institutional investors and asset managers to target systematic style factors, such as volatility, size and momentum.

 

3 

The number of indexes includes return versions (e.g., price, net and gross returns) but does not include different currency versions.

4


 

 

ESG Indexes are constructed using data from our ESG segment to meet the growing demand for indexes that integrate ESG criteria to facilitate sustainable investing strategies.

 

Custom Indexes are calculated by applying a client’s criteria such as stock exclusions, currency hedging, tax rates or special weighting to an existing MSCI index.

 

Thematic Indexes are designed to measure the performance of specific social, economic, industrial, environmental or demographic investment strategies.

 

Private Real Assets Indexes provide transparency and insight to private real estate investment strategies.

 

In 2019, we launched the following indexes:

 

Climate Change Indexes designed to enable investors to holistically integrate climate risk considerations into their investment processes.  The indexes are based on other MSCI indexes (e.g., the MSCI ACWI index) and reweights the securities based on a transition to a lower carbon economy, while seeking to minimize exclusions from the parent index.

 

Adaptive Multiple-Factor Indexes designed to reflect a strategy that adapts multi-factor allocations to changing market environments based on four pillars: macro cycle, momentum, valuation and market sentiment.

 

Megatrend Indexes designed to systematically identify companies based on the linkage of their business lines with the trend or theme being modeled. For example, the MSCI ACWI IMI Digital Economy Index tracks companies that derive significant revenues from the digital economy value chain, including digital payments and robotics, and the MSCI ACWI IMI Disruptive Technologies Index tracks “disruptive technology” companies that are broadly classified under the subthemes of 3D printing, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, fintech, digital payments, healthcare innovations, robotics, cybersecurity, clean energy and smart grids.  

 

Fixed Income Indexes designed to reflect the investment opportunity set of US Dollar-denominated investment grade corporate bonds. The issuance-weighted constituents meet certain issuance minimums and certain other criteria in the fixed income sector. The USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond Factor Fixed Income Indexes are constructed using constituent weights that reflect systematic style factor exposures such as carry, value, size and low risk. The USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ESG Fixed Income Indexes are constructed using data from our ESG segment and expand existing ESG methodologies in equities such as ESG Leaders and ESG Universal to the Fixed Income USD investment grade corporate sector, enabling clients to construct multi-asset-class portfolios with a consistent ESG approach.

 

Our Index segment also includes revenues from licenses of GICS® and GICS Direct, the global industry classification standard jointly developed and maintained by MSCI and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services, LLC, a subsidiary of S&P Global Inc. (“Standard & Poor’s”).  This classification system was designed to respond to clients’ needs for a comprehensive, consistent and accurate framework for classifying companies into industries. GICS is widely accepted as an industry analysis framework for investment research, portfolio management and asset allocation. GICS Direct is a database comprised of active companies and securities classified by sector, industry group, industry and sub-industry in accordance with the proprietary GICS methodology. The MSCI US and Global Sector Indexes are comprised of GICS sector, industry group, and industry indexes across countries and regions in Developed, Emerging and select Frontier markets.

 

Analytics

 

Our Analytics segment offers risk management, performance attribution and portfolio management content, applications and services that provide clients with an integrated view of risk and return and an analysis of market, credit, liquidity and counterparty risk across all major asset classes, spanning short-medium- and long-term time horizons. Our offerings also support clients’ various regulatory reporting needs.

 

5


 

The content we create in our Analytics segment includes models to support factor-based analytics (e.g., Barra equity models and fixed income and multi-asset-class (“MAC”) models), pricing models, time series-based analytics, stress testing and liquidity risk analytics, as well as underlying content that is used as inputs to these models such as interest rate and credit curves.  We continue to develop new and improved content in response to the evolving needs of our clients.  For example, MSCI continued its innovation in the factor space by introducing Tiers 1 through 4 of our Multi-Asset Class Factor Model in 2019. The tiered structure allows for multiple levels of granularity, providing consistency throughout the investment process.

 

Our clients access our Analytics content through our proprietary applications and APIs (application programming interfaces), third-party applications or directly through their own platforms. MSCI’s Analytics applications provide clients with integrated market data and constituent-level indexes aggregated from multiple third-party and proprietary sources. This integrated market and benchmark data significantly reduces the operational burden on clients for both the implementation and ongoing operation of our Analytics products. Our major applications include the following:

 

 

RiskMetrics RiskManager. We believe that RiskMetrics RiskManager is an industry leader in value at risk (“VaR”) simulation and in stress testing. Clients use RiskManager for daily analysis, measuring and monitoring of market and liquidity risk at fund and firm levels, sensitivity and stress testing, interactive what-if analysis, counterparty credit exposure and regulatory risk reporting.

 

 

BarraOne. Powered by our MAC Models and Barra Integrated Model, BarraOne provides clients with global, multi-asset-class risk analysis using Barra’s fundamental factor methodology that allows clients to understand the factors driving the risk and performance of their investments.

 

 

Barra Portfolio Manager. An integrated risk and performance platform, Barra Portfolio Manager is powered by Barra Equity Models and is used by equity fund managers and their teams to gain additional portfolio insight, manage their investment processes more systematically and make faster, more informed investment decisions.

 

 

WealthBench and CreditManager.  Wealthbench is a web-based platform used by private banks, financial advisers, brokerages and trust companies to help wealth managers assess portfolio risk, construct asset allocation policy and create comprehensive client proposals. CreditManager is a portfolio credit risk management system used primarily by banks to calculate economic capital, facilitate risk-based pricing and measure credit risk concentrations.

 

 

MSCI BEON™.  In 2019, the MSCI Analytics Platform was rebranded as MSCI BEON™. The platform provides a consolidated client experience by offering direct access to certain capabilities and content currently available through other Analytics applications, as well as content from other operating segments.

 

Our Analytics segment also provides various managed services to help clients operate more efficiently, including consolidation of client portfolio data from various sources, review and reconciliation of input data and results, and customized reporting. In addition, our HedgePlatform service allows clients such as funds of funds, pension funds and endowments who invest in hedge funds to measure, evaluate and monitor the risk of their hedge fund investments across multiple hedge fund strategies.

 

All Other ESG

 

MSCI ESG Research4 analyzes over 8,5005 entities worldwide to help institutional investors understand how ESG considerations can impact the long-term risk and reward of their portfolio and individual security-level

 

4 

MSCI ESG Research is provided by MSCI ESG Research LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MSCI Inc. that is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as an Investment Adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. MSCI ESG Ratings are used in the construction and calculation of MSCI ESG Indexes. MSCI Indexes are products of MSCI Inc., and MSCI Limited is the benchmark administrator of such indexes.  

5 

Does not include subsidiary-level companies.

6


 

investments. Subscribers to MSCI ESG Research include global asset managers, leading asset owners, consultants, advisers and academics.

 

In addition, MSCI ESG Research data and MSCI ESG Ratings are used in the construction of equity and fixed income indexes to help institutional investors more effectively benchmark ESG investment performance, issue index-based investment products, as well as manage, measure and report on ESG mandates.  

 

MSCI ESG Research offerings include:

 

 

MSCI ESG Ratings. Our ESG ratings are designed to identify ESG risks or opportunities that may not be captured through conventional analyses. MSCI ESG Ratings include ratings of equity issuers and fixed income securities, including corporate, sovereign and other government-related bonds. In 2019, MSCI broadened its coverage to ratings of funds and ETFs in the equity and fixed income universe. Ratings are designed to identify and analyze ESG issues, including exposures (e.g., business segment and geographic risk), management and industry-specific measures that may include the intersection of a company’s major social and environmental impacts with its core business operations, thereby identifying potential risks and opportunities for the company and its investors.  

 

 

MSCI ESG Business Involvement Screening Research. MSCI ESG Business Involvement Screening Research is a screening service that enables institutional investors to manage ESG standards and restrictions reliably and efficiently. Asset managers, investment advisers and asset owners can access screening research through the online MSCI ESG Manager platform or a data feed to satisfy their clients’ investment guidelines, implement client mandates and manage potential ESG portfolio risks.

 

For a description of regulation applicable to MSCI ESG Research offerings, see Part I, Item 1. “Business—Government Regulation.”

 

All Other – Real Estate

 

Our Real Estate segment includes research, reporting, market data and benchmarking offerings that provide real estate performance analytics for funds, investors and managers. Our Real Estate performance and risk analytics range from enterprise-wide to property-specific analysis. Some of the risk analysis generated in the Real Estate segment is also used in the products offered by our other operating segments. For example, the MAC models created in our Analytics segment offer a view of risk across market and asset classes, including private real estate, by incorporating content generated in the Real Estate segment. We also provide business intelligence to real estate owners, managers, developers and brokers worldwide. Real Estate offerings include:

 

 

MSCI Enterprise Analytics is an interactive application that offers a single integrated view of analysis to private real estate investors and managers, providing them with the ability to evaluate and analyze the drivers of portfolio performance across an organization’s investments, as well as review exposures and concentrations across markets, asset types and increasingly diverse portfolios.  

 

 

MSCI Global Intel is an industry-leading database which equips asset owners, researchers, strategists and portfolio and risk managers with data and analytics to enhance their understanding of local, regional and global real estate performance and risks. This tool comprises a consolidated set of global, regional, national, city and submarket indexes with segmentation by property type.  

 

 

Global MSCI Real Estate Analytics Portal is a dynamic platform for real estate performance and risk analysis, which enables real estate investors to gain market-level insights and evaluate the performance of their individual portfolios using relevant analytical filters.

 

7


 

Research and Product Development

 

We take an integrated team approach to developing content across our operating segments. Our product management, research and product development, data operations and technology, and application development departments are at the center of this process. Our content is developed by a research and product development team comprised of mathematicians, economists, statisticians, financial engineers and investment industry experts.  Content created in one segment can often be used for the creation of products in another segment.  For example, the MAC models created in our Analytics segment offers a view of risk across market and asset classes, including private real estate, by incorporating content generated in the Real Estate segment, and MSCI ESG indexes are constructed using data from our ESG segment.

 

Through our relationships with the world’s largest investment institutions, we monitor investment trends and their drivers globally and support instrument valuation, risk modeling, portfolio construction, portfolio attribution, asset allocation and VaR simulation. An important way we monitor global investment trends and their implications for our business is through direct public consultations and client advisory panels and through the forum provided by our Advisory Council. Our Advisory Council meets twice a year to discuss current and emerging investment industry trends and is comprised of senior investment professionals from around the world and senior members of our research and product development team.

 

Technology

 

Technology plays a pivotal role in our operations. In addition to leveraging cutting-edge technology to distribute our content, we aim to:

 

 

Enhance data processing by incorporating data science and machine learning into our data collection processes to enable us to efficiently build scale and facilitate faster product releases while also maintaining the highest quality standards.

 

Ensure information security by enhancing our technology infrastructure, with an emphasis on cybersecurity. Our success is dependent on our clients’ abilities to securely access our products and services. We implement changes and upgrades to technology and processes to minimize risk, and we improve employee awareness of cybersecurity issues through training. For a description of cybersecurity risks, see Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” below.

 

Enhance data center capabilities by evaluating our data center architecture and implementing recovery strategies that ensure the stability of our data center networks.

Competition

 

Index. Many industry participants compete with us by offering one or more indexes in similar categories. Such indexes vary widely in scope, including by geographic region, business sector and risk category, and may be used by clients in a variety of ways in many different markets around the world.  Among our Index competitors are S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC (a joint venture company owned by CME Group, Inc., CME Group Services LLC and S&P Global Inc.) and FTSE Russell, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange Group PLC.

 

8


 

Growing competition also exists from industry participants, including asset managers and investment banks, that create their own indexes, often in cooperation with index providers, which may, among other things, provide some form of calculation agent service. Asset managers manage funds, including ETFs, based on their proprietary indexes, and many investment banks have launched structured products or created over-the-counter derivatives based on their proprietary indexes. This is often referred to as self-indexing.

 

Analytics. Our Analytics offerings compete with those from a range of competitors, including Qontigo (formerly Axioma Inc.), BlackRock Solutions, Bloomberg Finance L.P., and FactSet Research Systems Inc. Additionally, some of the larger broker-dealers have developed proprietary analytics tools for their clients. Similarly, some of the large global investment organizations, such as custodians, have developed internal risk management and performance analytics tools that they offer to their clients.

 

All Other.  We also have a variety of competitors for our other offerings that comprise a smaller portion of our revenues, including a growing number of companies that are beginning to issue ESG data, ratings or research.

 

Intellectual Property, Other Proprietary Rights and Sources of Data

 

We consider many aspects of our offerings, processes and services to be proprietary. We have registered “MSCI” and other marks as trademarks or service marks in the United States and in certain other countries. We will continue to evaluate the registration of additional trademarks, service marks and copyrights as appropriate. From time to time, we also file patent applications to protect our proprietary rights. Additionally, many of our offerings, processes and services require the use of intellectual property obtained from third parties. It may be necessary in the future to seek or renew licenses relating to various aspects of our offerings and services.

 

The ownership of intellectual property and other proprietary rights, the implementation of certain measures to protect our intellectual property and other proprietary rights and our ability to obtain the rights to use intellectual property of third parties are important to our business and contribute in part to our overall success. We do not believe we are dependent on any one of our intellectual property rights or any one license to use third-party intellectual property. For a description of the risks associated with legal protection of our intellectual property and other rights, infringement claims and the ability to obtain or renew licenses for third-party intellectual property, see Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors below.

 

In addition to our intellectual property, we rely on third-party data in the creation and delivery of our products and services.  For example, we require certain stock exchange data to construct equity indexes.  Termination of the provision of such data or exclusion from, restricted use of, or litigation in connection with, such information could decrease the information available for us to use (and offer our clients).  For a description of the risks associated with our dependence on third-party data suppliers, see Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors below.

 

Employees

 

We had 3,396 and 3,112 employees as of December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. As of December 31, 2019 and 2018, 62.9% and 61.4% of our employees, respectively, were located in emerging markets.

 

Government Regulation

 

The Company is subject to reporting, disclosure and recordkeeping obligations pursuant to SEC requirements. Pursuant to the European Union’s benchmark regulation, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (“UK FCA”) authorized MSCI Limited (a subsidiary of MSCI Inc.) to be the benchmark administrator for applicable MSCI indexes.  Information about index regulation is periodically updated on our website at https://www.msci.com/index-regulation.  The contents of our website, including this webpage, are not, however, a part of or incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

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MSCI ESG Research LLC is a registered investment adviser and must comply with the requirements of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”) and related SEC regulations. Such requirements relate to, among other things, disclosure obligations, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, marketing restrictions and general anti-fraud prohibitions. It is possible that in addition to MSCI ESG Research, other entities in our corporate family may be required to register as an investment adviser under the Advisers Act or comply with similar laws or requirements in states or foreign jurisdictions.  We registered in 2012 with the State Council Information Office of the Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in China as a foreign institution supplying financial information services in China. This license is currently administered by the Cyberspace Administration of China.  For a description of the risks associated with government regulation, see Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” below.  

Executive Officers of the Registrant

 

Name

  

Age

  

Position

Henry A. Fernandez

  

61

  

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

C.D. Baer Pettit

  

55

  

President and Chief Operating Officer

Linda S. Huber

  

61

  

Chief Financial Officer

Robert J. Gutowski

  

52

  

General Counsel

Scott A. Crum

  

63

  

Chief Human Resources Officer

 

There are no family relationships between any of our executive officers and any director or other executive officer of the Company.

Henry A. Fernandez

Mr. Fernandez has served as Chairman since October 2007 and as Chief Executive Officer and a director since 1998. He also served as President from 1998 until October 2017. Before leading MSCI’s transition to becoming a fully independent, standalone public company in 2009, he was a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, where he worked in emerging markets product strategy, equity derivative sales and trading, mergers and acquisitions, worldwide corporate finance and mortgage finance for U.S. financial institutions. Mr. Fernandez worked for Morgan Stanley from 1983 to 1991 and from 1994 to 2009. Mr. Fernandez also serves on the boards of directors/trustees of Stanford University, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Foreign Policy Association, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. Mr. Fernandez is the former Chair of the Advisory Council of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Georgetown University, an M.B.A. from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and pursued doctoral studies in economics at Princeton University.

C.D. Baer Pettit

Mr. Pettit has served as the Company's President since October 2017 and the Company’s Chief Operating Officer since January 2020. As President and Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Pettit oversees the Company's business functions, including client coverage, marketing, product management, research and product development, technology and operations. He previously served as Chief Operating Officer from 2015 to 2017, Head of the Product Group from February 2015 to September 2015, Head of Index Products from 2011 to 2015, Head of Marketing from 2005 to 2012 and Head of Client Coverage from 2001 to 2012. Prior to joining the Company, Mr. Pettit worked for Bloomberg L.P. from 1992 to 1999. Mr. Pettit holds a Master of Arts degree in history from Cambridge University and a Master of Science degree from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

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Linda S. Huber

Ms. Huber has served as the Chief Financial Officer since April 2019.  As Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Huber manages the Company’s global finance and investor relations functions. She previously served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Moody’s Corporation from May 2005 to June 2018, where she had executive responsibility for the company’s global finance activities, information technology, communications and corporate services functions, as well as the Moody’s Foundation. Prior to joining Moody’s, she served in several increasingly senior roles in financial services, having served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at U.S. Trust Company, a subsidiary of Charles Schwab & Company, Inc.; Managing Director at Freeman & Co.; Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Development and Assistant Treasurer at PepsiCo.; Vice President of the Energy Investment Banking Group at Bankers Trust Co.; and an Associate in the Natural Resources Group at The First Boston Corp. She also held the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army, where she served from 1980 to 1984. Ms. Huber holds an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a B.S. degree in business and economics from Lehigh University. Ms. Huber currently serves on the board of directors of the Bank of Montreal.

Robert J. Gutowski

Mr. Gutowski has served as the Company’s General Counsel since January 2020. Mr. Gutowski previously served as the Company’s Deputy General Counsel and the Head of Compliance from 2010 to 2019 and the Head of Internal Audit from 2012 to 2019.  He joined MSCI in 2002.  Prior to joining MSCI, he was an attorney in private practice at Rogers & Wells LLP and Clifford Chance LLP. He received his B.A. from Georgetown University and his J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School.

Scott A. Crum

Mr. Crum has served as the Chief Human Resources Officer since April 2014. Prior to joining MSCI, Mr. Crum served as global head of human resources for four publicly traded companies. Mr. Crum worked for Avon Products, Inc. as Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief People Officer from 2012 to 2013. From 2010 to 2012, Mr. Crum served as Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer of Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc., one of two publicly traded companies formally created when Motorola Inc. split in January 2011 until it was acquired by Google. Prior to that, he served as the Senior Vice President and Director of Human Resources of ITT Corporation from 2002 to 2010 and Senior Vice President of Administration and Employee Resources at General Instruments Corp. from 1997 to 2000. Mr. Crum holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in industrial relations from Southern Methodist University.

Available Information

Our corporate headquarters is located at 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street, 49th Floor, New York, New York, 10007, and our telephone number is (212) 804-3900. We maintain a website on the internet at www.msci.com. The contents of our website are not a part of or incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

We file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. The SEC maintains a website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information that we file electronically with the SEC at www.sec.gov. We also make available free of charge, on or through our website, these reports, proxy statements and other information as soon as reasonably practicable following the time they are electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. To access these, click on the “SEC Filings” link found on our Investor Relations homepage (http://ir.msci.com).

We also use our Investor Relations homepage and corporate Twitter account (@MSCI_Inc) as channels of distribution of Company information. The information we post through these channels may be deemed material.

Accordingly, investors should monitor these channels, in addition to following our press releases, SEC filings and public conference calls and webcasts. In addition, you may automatically receive email alerts and other information about us when you enroll your email address by visiting the “Email Alert Subscription” section of our Investor Relations homepage at http://ir.msci.com/alerts.cfm. The contents of our website, including our Investor Relations homepage, and social media channels are not, however, a part of or incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

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Item 1A.

Risk Factors

You should carefully consider the following risks and all of the other information set forth in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. If any of the following risks actually occurs, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. You should read the section titled “Forward-Looking Statements” on page 1 for a description of the types of statements that are considered forward-looking statements, as well as the significance of such statements in the context of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. This information should be read in conjunction with "Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Result of Operations" and the consolidated financial statements and related notes. The following discussion of risks is not all-inclusive but is designed to highlight what we believe are important factors to consider when evaluating our business and expectations. These factors could cause our future results to differ materially from our historical results and from expectations reflected in forward-looking statements.

Operational Risks

We are dependent on third parties to supply data, applications and services for our products and services and are dependent on certain vendors to distribute our products. A refusal or failure by a key vendor to distribute our products or any loss of key outside suppliers of data, applications or services or a reduction in the accuracy or quality of such data, applications or services or any failure by us to comply with our suppliers’ or distributors’ licensing requirements could impair our ability to provide our clients with our products and services, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

We rely on third-party suppliers of data, applications and services, including data from stock exchanges (“Vendor Products”), and depend on the accuracy and quality of Vendor Products and the ability and willingness of such suppliers to deliver, support, enhance and develop new Vendor Products on a timely and cost-effective basis, and respond to emerging industry standards and other technological changes in order to produce, deliver and develop our products and services.

If Vendor Products include errors, design defects, are delayed, become incompatible with future versions of our products, are unavailable on acceptable terms or are not available at all, we may not be able to deliver our products and services. Some of our agreements with third party suppliers allow them to cancel on short notice and we have not completed formal agreements for all our Vendor Products, such as certain stock exchanges. From time to time we receive notices from third party suppliers, including stock exchanges, threatening to terminate the provision of their products or services to us, and some data suppliers, including at least one stock exchange, have terminated the provision of their data to us. Termination of the provision of Vendor Products by one or more of our significant suppliers or exclusion from, or restricted use of, or litigation in connection with Vendor Products could decrease the data and materials available for us to use and deliver to our clients. In addition, some of our competitors could enter into exclusive contracts with our data suppliers, including with certain stock exchanges. If our competitors enter into such exclusive contracts, we may be precluded from receiving certain data or other materials from these suppliers or restricted in our use of such data or other materials, which would give our competitors a competitive advantage. Such exclusive contracts could hinder our ability to create our products and services or to provide our clients with the data or other products or services they prefer, which could lead to a decrease in our client base.

Despite our efforts to comply with the licensing requirements of Vendor Products, our use of certain Vendor Products has been challenged in the past and there can be no assurance that third parties may not challenge our use in the future, resulting in increased acquisition or licensing costs, loss of rights and/or costly legal actions. Our business could be materially adversely affected if we are unable to timely or effectively replace the functionality provided by Vendor Products that becomes unavailable or fails to operate effectively for any reason. Our operating costs could increase if additional license fees are imposed or current license fees increase or the efforts to incorporate enhancements to Vendor Products are substantial and we are unable to negotiate acceptable licensing arrangements with these suppliers or find alternative sources of equivalent products or services. If any of these risks materialize, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

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We also rely on certain third-party vendors to distribute our data to clients. While some of our vendors generate revenue in connection with distributing our data, others do not derive a direct financial benefit.  Should any of our key vendors refuse to distribute our data for any reason or require that we pay them fees in connection with the distribution of our data, we would need to find alternative ways to distribute our data or lose revenue in connection with paying distribution fees, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

If we fail to attract or retain the necessary qualified personnel, including through our compensation programs, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

The development, maintenance and support of our products and services are dependent upon the knowledge, skills, experience and abilities of our employees. Accordingly, we believe the success of our business depends to a significant extent upon the continued service of our executives and other key employees. Although we do not believe that we are overly dependent upon any individual employee, our management and other employees may terminate their employment at any time and the loss of any of our key employees could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. If our compensation programs do not adequately engage our key employees or are not competitive, or if we fail to attract, engage and retain the necessary qualified personnel, the quality of our products and services as well as our ability to support and retain our clients and achieve business objectives may suffer.

If our products contain undetected errors or fail to perform properly due to defects, malfunctions or similar problems, we may, among other things, become subject to increased costs or liability based on the use of our products or services to support our clients’ investment processes, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Our products and services support the investment processes of our clients, which relate to, in the aggregate, trillions of dollars in assets. Products we develop or license may contain undetected errors or defects despite testing. Use of our products or services as part of the investment process creates the risk that our clients, the parties whose assets are managed by our clients or the companies that we rate or assess in our ESG segment may pursue claims against us based on even a small error in our data, calculations, methodologies or analysis or a malfunction or failure in our systems, products or services.

Errors or defects can exist at any point in a product’s life cycle, but are frequently found after introduction of new products or enhancements to existing products. We continually introduce new methodologies and products, and new versions of and updates to our products. Despite internal testing and in some cases testing or use by clients, our products may contain errors in our data, calculations, methodologies or analysis, including serious defects or malfunctions. If we detect any errors before we release or deliver a product or publish a methodology or analysis, we might have to suspend or delay the product release or delivery for an extended period of time while we address the problem. We may not discover errors that affect our products or enhancements until after they are deployed, and we may need to provide enhancements or corrections to address such errors, and in certain cases it may be impracticable to do so. If undetected errors exist in our products, or if our products fail to perform properly due to defects, malfunctions or similar problems, it could result in harm to our brand or reputation, significantly increased costs, lost sales, delays in commercial release, third party claims, contractual disputes, negative publicity, delays in or loss of market acceptance of our products, license terminations or renegotiations and/or unexpected expenses and diversion of resources to remedy or mitigate such errors, defects or malfunctions. The realization of any of these events could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

While we have provisions in our client contracts that are designed to limit our exposure to potential liability claims brought by our clients or third parties based on the use of our products or services or our delay or failure to provide services, these provisions could be invalidated or fail to eliminate liability resulting from the occurrence of any of these events, which could result in the provision of credits, contractual penalties and adverse monetary judgments. Any such claims brought against us, even if the outcome were to be ultimately favorable to us, would require attention of our management, personnel, financial and other resources and could have a negative impact on our reputation or pose a significant disruption to our normal business operations. In addition, the duration or outcome of such claims and lawsuits is difficult to predict, which could further exacerbate the adverse effect they may have on our business operations.

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Client Risks

Our clients that pay us a fee based on the assets under management or total expense ratio of an index-linked investment product may seek to negotiate a lower asset-based fee percentage or lower the total expense ratio of such products or may cease using our indexes, which could limit the growth of or decrease our revenues from asset-based fees.

A portion of our revenues are from asset-based fees and these revenue streams are concentrated in some of our largest clients, including BlackRock, and in our largest market, the U.S. Our clients, including our largest clients, may seek for a variety of reasons to negotiate to pay us lower asset-based fee percentages, which are sometimes calculated as a percentage of the relevant product’s total expense ratio (“TER”). Additionally, competition is intense among our clients that offer or manage index-linked investment products, including ETFs, and low fees are one of the competitive differentiators. Where an investment product’s TER determines our fees, a reduction in the TER may negatively impact our revenues.  Additionally, our clients, including our largest clients, may seek to lower or eliminate floors on asset-based fees (i.e., minimum asset-based fee percentages) or impose or lower ceilings on asset-based fees (i.e., maximum asset-based fee percentages). Such changes affecting our fees and fee structures could individually, or in the aggregate, negatively impact our revenues.  

Moreover, clients that have licensed our indexes to serve as the basis of index-linked investment products are generally not required to continue to use our indexes and could elect to cease offering the product or switch to a lower fee index.  For example, at least one large client ceased using MSCI indexes as the basis for a significant number of its index funds. Clients that license our indexes to serve as the basis for listed futures and options contracts might also discontinue such contracts.  Additionally, we have a differentiated licensing strategy for our indexes and from time to time experience faster growth from lower fee products, resulting in a lower average asset-based fee percentage from index-linked investment products. While we aim to maximize the price and volume trade-off over the long-term, there can be no assurance that we will be able to do so.  Results for any given quarter could be materially adversely affected by stronger growth in assets in index-linked investment products with lower than average fees not sufficiently offset by growth in assets in index-linked investment products with higher than average fees. Our asset-based fees could dramatically decrease, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Finally, to the extent that multiple investment products are based on the same index, (i) assets under management in one product could shift to products that pay MSCI lower fee levels, (ii) the products could compete for the same assets such that none of the products becomes large enough to be successful or sustained, or (iii) the failure or discontinuance of one product (e.g., derivatives used for hedging) could have a detrimental effect on the use of the other products (e.g., ETFs).

Cancellations or reductions by any of our largest clients could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

A material portion of our revenues is concentrated in some of our largest customers. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, our largest client organization by revenue, BlackRock, accounted for 11.5% of our total revenues. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018, BlackRock, accounted for 11.9% of our total revenues. Our revenue growth depends on our ability to obtain new clients and achieve and sustain a high level of renewal rates with respect to our existing licenses. Failure to achieve one or more of these objectives could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results. If one or more of our largest clients cancels or reduces its licenses and we are unsuccessful in replacing those licenses, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

 

Our clients may become more self-sufficient, which may reduce demand for our products or services and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Our clients may internally develop certain functionality contained in the products or services they currently license from us. For example, a number of our clients have obtained regulatory clearance to create indexes for use as the basis of ETFs that they manage. For example, on September 20, 2016, Blackrock received exemptive relief from the SEC to create certain indexes for use as the basis of ETFs that it would manage. Similarly, some of our clients who currently license our risk data to analyze their portfolio risk may develop their own tools to collect data and assess risk, making our products or services unnecessary for them. A growing number of asset managers and investment banks, in partnership with index providers that offer calculation agent services, or acting together with an industry group or association, have created or may create their own range of proprietary indexes, which they use to manage funds or as the basis of ETFs, structured products or over-the-counter derivatives. To the extent that our clients become more self-sufficient, demand for our products or services may be reduced, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

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Technology Risks

Any failures, disruptions, instability or vulnerabilities in our information technology architecture, platforms, production and delivery systems, software, code, internal network, the Internet or other systems or applications may cause our products to be unavailable or fail and impose delays or additional costs in deploying our products, or impose conditions or restrictions on our ability to commercialize our products or keep them confidential and result in reputational and other harm and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

We depend heavily on the capacity, reliability and security of our information technology systems and platforms and their components, including our data centers and production and delivery systems as well the Internet, to create and deliver our products and service our clients. Heavy use of our electronic delivery systems and other factors such as loss of service from third parties, operational failures, human error, terrorist or other attacks affecting systems or sites where we are located, climate or weather related events (e.g., natural disasters), power loss, telecommunications failures, technical breakdowns, Internet failures or computer viruses could impair our systems’ operations or interrupt their availability for extended periods of time. Our ability to effectively use the Internet may also be impaired due to infrastructure failures, service outages at third-party Internet providers or increased government regulation.

Disruptions, failures or slowdowns that could occur with respect to our operations, including to our information technology systems and platforms, our electronic delivery systems or the Internet, could damage our brand and reputation, result in litigation and negatively affect our ability to distribute our products effectively and to service our clients, including delivering managed services or delivering real-time index data.  There is no assurance that we will be able to successfully defend against such disruptions or that our disaster recovery or business continuity plans will be effective in mitigating the risks and associated costs, which could have a material impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Any failure to ensure and protect the confidentiality of data could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Many of our products provide for the exchange of sensitive information with our clients through a variety of media, such as the Internet, applications and dedicated transmission lines. We rely on a complex system of internal processes and software controls along with policies, procedures and training to protect data that we receive in the ordinary course of business, including sensitive and confidential client data such as material non-public information and client portfolio data that may be provided to us or hosted on our systems, against unauthorized data access or disclosure. In addition, we change the composition of our indexes from time to time and we believe that, in some cases, such changes can have an indirect effect on the prices of constituent securities and on certain index-linked investment products based on our indexes as a result of trading activity related to replicating our indexes.

If our internal processes, confidentiality policies, conflict of interest policies or information barrier procedures fail or are insufficient, including as a result of human error or manual processes, or if an employee purposely circumvents or violates our internal controls, policies or procedures, then unauthorized access to, or disclosure or misappropriation of, data, including material non-public or other confidential information (e.g., index composition data), our brand and reputation may suffer and we may become subject to litigation, regulatory actions, sanctions or other penalties, leading to a loss of client confidence, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Successful cyber-attacks and the failure of cyber-security systems and procedures could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

The Company’s operations rely on the secure processing, storage and transmission of confidential, sensitive, proprietary and other types of data and information, and on those of its third-party vendors. We and our vendors are subject to cyber risks, including cyber-attacks, such as phishing scams, hacking, tampering, intrusions, viruses, ransomware, malware and denial-of-service attacks. Our and our vendors’ use of mobile and cloud technologies may increase our risk for such threats. The Company may be exposed to more targeted and more sophisticated cyber-attacks aimed at accessing certain information on our systems because of our prominence in the global marketplace, including client portfolio data, the composition of our indexes and MSCI ESG Research ratings of corporate issuers. Any such threats may cause material interruptions or malfunctions in our or our vendors’ products or services, networks, systems, websites, applications, data or data processing, or may otherwise compromise the availability, confidentiality or integrity of data or information in our possession.  While the Company has not experienced cyber incidents that are individually, or in the aggregate, material, the Company has experienced cyber-attacks of varying degrees in the past, including denial-of-service attacks, and there can be no assurance that there will not be a material adverse effect in the future.

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Our security measures or those of our third-party providers, including any cloud-based technologies, may prove insufficient depending upon the attack or threat posed. Cyber-attacks, security breaches or third-party reports of perceived security vulnerability to the Company’s systems, even if no breach has occurred, could damage our brand and reputation, result in litigation, regulatory actions, sanctions or other penalties, lead to loss of client confidence in our security measures and reliability, which would harm our ability to retain clients and gain new ones, and lead to financial losses. Any of the foregoing could lead to unexpected or higher than estimated costs.  We may also incur additional costs as a result of increasing and refining our internal processes and software controls and policies and procedures related to security, processing integrity and confidentiality or privacy.

Migration of our applications, systems, processes and infrastructure to new technologies, data centers, processes, platforms or applications could result in unanticipated interruption and delay in the performance and delivery of our products which could impair our ability to provide clients with products and customer service.  Such impairment may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations.  

We have experienced unanticipated interruption and delay in the performance and delivery of certain products after we migrated applications and infrastructure to new data centers. While we have taken steps to mitigate such interruptions and delays, we cannot provide assurance that they will not occur again in the future even after extensive testing of new systems, processes, applications and hardware. Such disruptions may result in cancellations and reduced demand for our products and services, resulting in decreased revenues. After adopting new technologies, applications and processes, such as cloud computing, virtualization and Agile software development, we may experience unanticipated interruption and delay in the performance and delivery of certain of our products and services. We may also incur increased operating expenses to recover data, repair, replace or remediate systems, equipment or facilities, and to protect ourselves from such disruptions. Accordingly, any significant failures, disruptions or instability affecting our information technology platform, data centers, production and delivery systems, applications, processes or the Internet could negatively affect our ability to distribute our products effectively and to service our clients, damage our brand and reputation and result in litigation, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations.

Our use of open source code could introduce security vulnerabilities into our internal network system, impose unanticipated delays or costs in deploying our products, or impose conditions or restrictions on our ability to commercialize our products or keep them confidential.

We rely on open source code to develop software and to incorporate it in our products, as well as to support our internal systems and infrastructure. The use of open source code may entail greater risks than the use of third-party commercial software, as open source licensors generally do not provide warranties or other contractual protections regarding infringement claims, the quality of the code or the security of the code. Some open source licenses provide that if we combine our proprietary applications with open source software in a certain manner, we could be required to release the source code of our proprietary applications to the public. This would allow our competitors to create similar products with less development effort and time and ultimately put us at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, the terms of many open source code licenses are ambiguous and have not been interpreted by U.S. courts. Accordingly, there are risks that there may be a failure in our procedures for controlling the use of open source code or that these licenses could be construed in a manner that imposes unanticipated conditions or restrictions on our ability to commercialize our products. In either event, we could be required to seek licenses from third parties on terms that are not commercially feasible, to make generally available portions of our proprietary code, to re-engineer our products or systems, to discontinue the licensing of our products if re-engineering could not be accomplished on a timely or cost-effective basis, or to take other remedial action that could divert resources away from our development efforts. Any of these requirements could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

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Strategy and Growth Risks

Our growth and profitability may not continue at the same rate as we have experienced in the past for several reasons, including if our operating costs are higher than expected, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

We have experienced significant revenue and earnings growth since we began operations. There can be no assurance that we will be able to maintain the levels of growth and profitability that we have experienced in the past. If we experience higher than expected operating costs, including increased compensation costs, regulatory compliance costs, occupancy costs, selling and marketing costs, investments in geographic expansion, communication costs, travel costs, application development costs, professional fees, costs related to information technology infrastructure and other IT costs, and we cannot adjust to these costs, our operating results may fluctuate significantly or our anticipated profitability may be reduced and our anticipated results of operations and financial position may be materially adversely affected.  Additionally, there can be no assurance that we will be as successful in our product development, marketing efforts, or capital return or allocation strategies as we have been in the past, or that such efforts will result in growth or profit margins comparable to those we have experienced in the past.

Our business may be affected by changes in the global capital markets, including adverse equity market conditions, volatility in the financial markets and evolving investment trends. Such changes could decrease the use of our products which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Our business is impacted by economic conditions and volatility in the global capital markets. Our clients use our products for a variety of investment objectives, including benchmarking and portfolio construction and ESG, factor, private real estate and MAC investing. Volatile capital markets may impact whether investors choose to invest in developed or emerging markets, or in the U.S. or non-U.S. markets, as well as whether to adopt different investment styles.

Our equity indexes serve as equity benchmarks against which our clients can measure the performance of their investments and are also used by clients as the basis for certain index-linked investment products for a fee based on the value of the investment product’s assets. The value of an investment product’s assets may increase or decrease in response to changes in market performance and cash inflows and outflows, which could impact our revenues. Our Analytics segment offers performance attribution and portfolio management content, applications and services and MAC models that provide clients with an integrated view of risk and return of their portfolios across markets and asset classes. Additionally, equity models developed in our Analytics segment are used to construct MSCI Factor Indexes. Our ESG segment offers ESG ratings and research on companies worldwide to provide clients with an understanding of how ESG factors can impact the long-term risk of their investments.  Such research is also used in the construction of equity and fixed income indexes, which help investors more effectively benchmark ESG investment performance and manage and measure ESG mandates.

Additionally, an increasing portion of our revenues comes from products that relate to certain investment trends, such as ESG, factor and MAC investing.  A decline in the equity markets or a trend away from such investment trends could decrease demand for the Company’s related products, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Competition and financial and budgetary pressures affecting clients in our industry may cause price reductions or loss of market share, which may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. To remain competitive, we must successfully develop new and enhanced products and services and effectively manage product transitions and integrations.

Competition exists across all markets for our products and services. Our competitors range in size from large companies with substantial resources to small, single-product businesses that are highly specialized. Our larger competitors may have access to more resources and may be able to achieve greater economies of scale, and our specialized competitors may be more effective in devoting technical, marketing and financial resources to compete with us with respect to a particular product. Some competitors may offer price incentives or different pricing structures that are more attractive to clients. The competitive landscape may also experience consolidation in the form of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures or strategic partnerships, which result in a narrower pool of competitors that are better capitalized or that are able to gain a competitive advantage through synergies.

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Barriers to entry may be low or declining in many of the markets for our products and services, including for single-purpose product companies, which could lead to the emergence of new competitors. For example, more broker-dealers and data suppliers could begin developing their own proprietary risk analytics or indexes. Recent developments, including increases in the availability of free or relatively inexpensive information, advances in cloud computing, increased use of open source code, as well as client development of proprietary applications in specific areas, have further reduced barriers to entry in some cases.

We may experience pressures to reduce our fees on account of financial and budgetary pressures affecting our clients, including those resulting from weak or volatile economic or market conditions, may lead certain clients to reduce their overall spending on our products or services, including by seeking similar products or services at a lower cost than what we are able to provide, by consolidating their spending with fewer providers, by consolidating with other clients or by self-sourcing certain of their informational and analytical needs. Accordingly, competitive and market pressures may result in fewer clients or reduced sales, including as a result of client closures and consolidations, price reductions, prolonged selling and renewal cycles and increased operating costs, such as for marketing and product development, which could, individually or in the aggregate, result in a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

To remain competitive, we must continually introduce new products and services, enhance existing products and services, including through integration of products and services within MSCI and with third-party platforms, and effectively generate customer demand for new and upgraded products and services. We may not be successful in developing, introducing, implementing, marketing, pricing, launching or licensing new products or enhancements on a timely or cost-effective basis or without impacting the stability and efficiency of existing products and systems. Any new products and enhancements may not adequately meet the requirements of the marketplace or industry standards or achieve market acceptance. We must make long-term investments and commit significant resources before knowing whether these investments will eventually result in products and services that satisfy our clients’ needs and generate revenues required to provide the desired results. From time to time, we also incur costs to integrate existing products and services and transition clients to enhanced products and services, which also present execution risks and challenges. If we are unable to effectively manage transitions to new or enhanced products and services, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

If we are unable to successfully identify, execute and realize synergies from acquisitions or strategic partnerships, or if we experience integration, financing, or other risks resulting from our acquisitions or strategic partnerships, our financial results may be materially adversely affected.

An element of our growth strategy is growth through acquisitions and strategic partnerships. Despite our best efforts to continue pursuing such transactions, there can be no assurance that we will be able to identify suitable strategic partners or candidates for successful acquisition at acceptable terms. Our ability to achieve the expected returns and synergies from our past and future acquisitions and strategic partnerships depends, in part, upon our ability to effectively integrate the offerings, technology, sales, administrative functions and personnel of these businesses into our operations. We cannot provide assurance that we will be successful in integrating acquired businesses, that our acquired businesses will perform at the levels we anticipate or that our strategic partnerships will advance the long-term growth strategy of our company. Our past and future acquisitions and strategic partnerships may subject us to unanticipated risks or liabilities, including the potential to disrupt our operations. Any acquisition or strategic partnership could present a number of risks, including incorrect assumptions regarding the future results of acquired operations or assets or strategic partnerships, failure to achieve assumed synergies or successful integration of operations and management, increased debt associated with such transactions, dilution of our common stock, loss of key personnel and diversion of management’s attention from existing operations. Additionally, strategic partnerships may increase our reliance on third-parties, which may result in future disruptions if those partnerships are discontinued or the content or level of support provided by strategic partners is diminished.

In the event that we experience a high level of acquisition- or strategic partnership-related activity within a limited period of time, the probability that these risks would occur would likely increase. In addition, if we are unsuccessful in completing acquisitions of other businesses or assets, executing strategic partnerships or if such opportunities for expansion do not arise, our brand or reputation could suffer, and our future growth, business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

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Our global operations and any future expansion may continue to place significant strain on our management and other resources, as well as subject us to additional, and in some cases unanticipated, risks and costs in connection with political, economic, legal, operational and other issues resulting from our increased global footprint, which could materially adversely impact our businesses.  

Our global operations and any future expansion is expected to continue to place significant demands on our personnel, management and other resources. We must continue to improve our operational, financial, human resources, management, legal and compliance processes and information systems to keep pace with the expansion of our business. There can also be no assurance that, if in the future we expand organically or by way of acquisition, our management will be effective in attracting, engaging and retaining additional qualified personnel, including additional managers or key employees, developing effective leadership in all our locations, expanding our physical facilities and information technology infrastructure, integrating acquired businesses or otherwise managing expansion. Additionally, new hires require significant training and may, in some cases, take a significant amount of time before becoming fully productive.

Our global operations expose us to political, economic, legal, operational, franchise and other risks that are inherent in operating in many countries, including risks of possible capital controls, exchange controls, customs duties, sanctions compliance, tax penalties, levies or assessments, legal uncertainty, broad regulatory discretion and other restrictive governmental actions, as well as the outbreak of hostilities or political and governmental instability in certain of the countries or regions in which we conduct operations. A significant number of our employees are located in offices outside of the U.S. and a number of those employees are located in emerging market locations. For example, as of December 31, 2019, 62.9% of our employees were located in emerging market locations. The cost of establishing and maintaining these offices, including costs related to information technology infrastructure, as well as the costs of attracting, training and retaining employees in these locations may be higher, or may increase at a faster rate, than we anticipate. Additionally, public health epidemics impacting the global economy and our employees, such as COVID-19 that originated in China and has had reverberating effects around the world, particularly in the APAC region, may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

The laws and regulations in many countries applicable to our business are uncertain and evolving, and it may be difficult for us to determine and remain compliant with the exact requirements of local laws in every market. Our inability to maintain consistent internal policies and procedures across our offices and remain in compliance with local laws in a particular market could have a significant and negative effect not only on our businesses in that market but also on our reputation generally.

Demand for our products and services is still nascent in many parts of the world, particularly in emerging market locations. Many countries have not fully developed laws and regulations regarding risk management and ESG and, in many cases, institutions in these countries have not developed widely accepted best practices regarding the same. If we do not appropriately tailor our products and services to fit the needs of the local market, we may be unable to effectively grow sales of our products and services outside of the U.S. There can be no assurances that demand for our products and services will develop in these countries.

Any failure to effectively manage expansion or to effectively manage the business globally could damage our brand and reputation, result in increased costs and litigation and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Legal and Regulatory Risks

New regulations or changes to current regulations could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Failure to comply with any applicable laws, rules or regulations could damage our brand and reputation, and we may become subject to litigation, regulatory actions, sanctions, fines or other penalties. The financial services industry, within which we and many of our clients operate, is subject to extensive regulation at the federal and state levels, as well as by foreign governments, with some jurisdictions regulating indexes directly. These regulations are complex, evolve frequently and sometimes quickly and unexpectedly, and are subject to administrative interpretation and judicial construction in ways that are difficult to predict, and could materially adversely affect our

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business and our clients’ businesses. Uncertainty caused by political change in the U.S., Europe and Asia heightens regulatory uncertainty. Additionally, we may be required to comply with multiple and potentially conflicting laws, rules or regulations in various jurisdictions, which could, individually or in the aggregate, result in materially higher compliance costs to us. It is possible that laws or regulations could cause us to restrict or change the way we license and price our products and services or could impose additional costs on us. Changes to the laws, rules and regulations applicable to our clients could limit our clients’ ability to use our products and services or could otherwise impact our clients’ demand for our products and services. As such, to the extent that our clients become subject to certain laws, rules or regulations, we may incur higher costs in connection with modifying our products or services.  To the extent that we rely on our clients and vendors to provide data for our products and services and certain laws, rules or regulations impact our clients’ and vendors’ ability or willingness to provide that data to us or regulate the fees for which such data can be provided, our ability to continue to produce our products and services or the related costs could be negatively impacted.  The regulations that most materially impact us are described below:

 

Brexit. The United Kingdom (“UK”) exited the European Union (“EU”) on January 31, 2020 (commonly referred to as “Brexit”) and is currently in the transition period under the  Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which ends as of the end of 2020 (but could be extended). Negotiations on the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU are ongoing, leading to increased legal uncertainty. Any formal agreement or other developments regarding Brexit could lead to additional legal uncertainty and potentially divergent national laws and regulations that negatively affect our business and could cause additional operating obligations and increased costs for our business. In particular, we will need to ensure that post-Brexit we are licensed to provide indexes in the EU as well as the UK under each of the EU and UK benchmark regulations.

There is also uncertainty as to how the UK’s access to the EU single market and the wider trading, legal, regulatory, tax and labor environments, especially in the UK and EU, will be impacted, including the resulting impact on our business and that of our clients. Any such changes may adversely affect our operations and financial results because we have significant operations in Europe and certain members of our senior management team are based in London. For example, changes in labor, immigration and tax laws could increase the cost to our staff of living and working in the UK or the EU and may impact our ability to hire and retain non-UK staff in the UK or UK staff in the EU. A change in such regulations, or other regulations, could increase our costs of doing business, or in some cases affect our ability to do business, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Regulation Affecting Benchmarks. Compliance efforts associated with regulations affecting benchmarks and the related technical standards and guidance could have a negative impact on our business and results of operations.  In particular, compliance could lead to a change in our business practices and/or our ability to offer indexes in certain jurisdictions, including the EU, including without limitation, by increasing our costs of doing business, including direct costs paid to regulators, diminishing our intellectual property rights, imposing constraints on our ability to meet contractual commitments to our data providers, or causing our data providers to refuse to provide data to us, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our index products. 

For example, the benchmark industry is subject to regulations in the EU, such as Regulation (EU) 2016/1011 and Regulation (EU) No 600/2014, as well as increased scrutiny and potential new or increased regulation in various other jurisdictions. Additionally, the European Securities and Markets Authority (“ESMA”) issues guidance from time to time regarding interpretations of the benchmark regulation. The ESMA Guidelines on ETFs and other UCITS Issues limit the types of indexes that can be used as the basis of Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (“UCITS”) funds and require, among other things, index constituents, together with their respective weightings, to be made easily accessible free of charge, such as via the internet, to investors and prospective investors on a delayed and periodic basis. The International Organization of Securities Commissions (“IOSCO”) recommends that benchmark administrators, on a voluntary basis, publicly disclose whether they comply with the principles for financial benchmarks published by IOSCO.  The heightened attention and scrutiny on benchmarks and index providers by regulators, policymakers and the media in the EU, the U.S. and other jurisdictions around the world could result

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in negative publicity or comments about the role or influence of our company or the index industry generally, which could harm our reputation and credibility.

 

Data Privacy Legislation. Changes in laws, rules or regulations, or consumer environments relating to privacy or information collection and use may affect our ability to collect, manage, aggregate, store, transfer and use personal data. There could be a material adverse impact on our direct marketing due to the enactment of legislation or industry regulations, or simply a change in practices, arising from public concern over privacy issues. Restrictions or bans could be placed upon the collection, management, aggregation, storage, transfer and use of information that is currently legally available, in which case our costs related to handling information could increase materially. Recently, California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”), which took effect on January 1, 2020. The CCPA regulates the processing of personal data of all Californians and imposes significant penalties for non-compliance. The European General Data Protection Regulation imposes enhanced operational requirements for companies that receive or process personal data of residents of the EU and includes significant penalties for non-compliance.  In Japan, the Act on the Protection of Personal Information (“APPI”) regulates the use of personal information and personal data of “data subjects” for business purposes without regard to whether such use is within Japan. In addition, other jurisdictions, including China and India, are considering imposing or have already imposed additional restrictions.

 

Investment Advisers Act. Except with respect to certain products provided by MSCI ESG Research LLC and certain of its designated foreign affiliates, we believe that our products and services do not constitute or provide investment advice as contemplated by the Advisers Act. The Advisers Act imposes fiduciary duties, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, disclosure requirements, limitations on agency and principal transactions between an adviser and advisory clients, as well as general anti-fraud prohibitions. Future developments in our product lines or changes to current laws, rules, regulations or interpretations could cause this status to change, requiring other entities in our corporate family to register as investment advisers under the Advisers Act or comply with similar laws or requirements in states or foreign jurisdictions.  See Part I, Item 1. “Business—Government Regulation” above for information about similar regulations in other countries.

 

In some instances, in connection with the provision of data and services, we have incurred additional costs to implement processes and systems at the request of our clients to ensure that the products and services that they in turn provide to their clients using our data are compliant with the financial regulations to which our clients may be subject. To the extent that our clients are subject to increased regulation, we may be indirectly impacted and could incur increased costs that could have a negative impact on the profitability of certain products.

 

Additionally, there has been increased attention on and scrutiny of ESG ratings providers by regulators, policymakers and the media, which could create negative publicity that could harm our reputation or credibility as well as result in new or additional regulation that could increase our costs and have a negative impact on profitability.

Legal protections for our intellectual property rights and other rights may not be sufficient or available to protect our competitive advantages. Third parties may infringe on our intellectual property rights or we may infringe upon their intellectual property rights, which, in each case, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

We consider many aspects of our products and services to be proprietary. We rely primarily on a combination of trade secrets, patents, copyrights and trademark rights, as well as technical measures and contractual protections, such as non-disclosure obligations, to protect our products and services. Despite our best efforts, we cannot be certain that the steps we have taken to protect our intellectual property rights, and the rights of those from whom we license intellectual property, are adequate to prevent unauthorized use, misappropriation, distribution or theft of our intellectual property.

Intellectual property laws in various jurisdictions in which we operate are subject to change at any time and could further restrict our ability to protect our intellectual property rights. The enforceability of intellectual property

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rights and obligations under our agreements, as well as the availability of remedies in the event of a breach, may vary due to the different jurisdictions in which our clients and employees are located.  Failure to protect the Company’s intellectual property adequately could harm its brand and reputation and affect the Company’s ability to compete effectively.

There is no guarantee that any intellectual property rights that we may obtain will protect our competitive advantages, nor is there any assurance that our competitors will not infringe upon our rights. Furthermore, our competitors may independently develop and patent or otherwise protect products and services that are the same or similar to ours. We may be unable to detect the unauthorized use of our intellectual property, or disclosure of confidential information, and take the necessary steps to enforce our rights. In addition, our services and products, or the products of others that we offer to our clients, could infringe upon the intellectual property rights of third parties.  

Pursuing intellectual property claims or responding to intellectual property claims, regardless of merit, can consume valuable time, and result in costly litigation or delays, and there is no guarantee that the Company will be successful. From time to time, we receive claims or notices from third parties alleging infringement or potential infringement of their intellectual property rights; and the number of these claims may grow. These intellectual property claims would likely be costly to defend and could require us to pay damages, limit our future use of certain technologies, harm our brand and reputation, significantly increase our costs and prevent us from offering some services or products.  We may need to settle such claims on unfavorable terms, pay damages, stop providing or using the affected products or services or enter into royalty and licensing agreements, which may include terms that are not commercially acceptable to us. From time to time we receive notices calling upon us to defend partners, clients, suppliers or distributors against third-party claims under indemnification clauses in our contracts. If any of these risks materialize, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.  

There have been a number of lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions, including in the U.S. and Germany, regarding whether issuers of index-linked investment products are required to obtain a license from the index owner or whether issuers may issue investment products based on publicly-available index level data without obtaining permission from (or making payment to) the index owner. The outcome of these cases depends on a number of factors, including the governing law, the amount of information about the index available without a license and the other particular facts and circumstances of the cases. In some instances, the results have been unfavorable to the index owner. If courts or regulators or other governmental bodies in relevant jurisdictions determine that a license is not required to issue investment products linked to indexes, this could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. It might also lead to changes in current industry practices such that we would no longer make our index level data publicly available, such as via our website or news media, on a timely basis.

We may be exposed to liabilities as a result of failure to comply with anti-corruption laws and any determination that we violated these laws could have a material adverse effect on our business.

We are subject to various anti-corruption laws that prohibit improper payments or benefits or offers of payments or benefits to foreign governments and their officials and, in some cases, to employees of a business for the purpose of directing, obtaining or retaining business. We have business in countries and regions which are less developed and are generally recognized as potentially more corrupt business environments. Our activities in these countries create the risk of unauthorized payments or offers of payments by one of our employees or agents that could be in violation of various anti-corruption laws including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended (the “FCPA”) and the U.K. Bribery Act 2010. We have implemented safeguards and policies to discourage these practices by our employees and agents. However, our existing safeguards and any future improvements may prove to be less than fully effective and our employees or agents may engage in conduct for which we might be held responsible. If employees violate our policies or we fail to maintain adequate record-keeping and internal accounting practices to accurately record our transactions we may be subject to regulatory sanctions. Violations of the FCPA or other anti-corruption laws may result in severe criminal or civil sanctions and penalties, damage our brand and reputation and subject us to other liabilities which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

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In connection with our initial public offering and separation from Morgan Stanley, we entered into agreements with Morgan Stanley where we agreed to indemnify Morgan Stanley for, among other things, certain past, present and future liabilities related to our business.

Pursuant to certain agreements we entered into with Morgan Stanley relating to the provision of services and other matters, we agreed to indemnify Morgan Stanley for, among other matters, certain past, present and future liabilities related to our business. Such liabilities include certain unknown liabilities, which could be significant.

Financial Risks

Our business performance might not be sufficient for us to meet the full-year financial guidance or long-term targets that we provide publicly.

We provide full-year financial guidance and long-term targets to the public based upon our assumptions regarding our expected financial performance. For example, we provide assumptions regarding our ability to achieve certain subscription revenue growth, manage our expenses, generate free cash flow, achieve an effective tax rate within a certain range and achieve our profitability targets. While we believe that our annual financial guidance and long-term targets provide investors and analysts with insight to our view of the Company’s future performance, such financial guidance and long-term targets are based on assumptions that may not always prove to be accurate and may vary from actual results. If we fail to meet the full-year financial guidance or achieve the long-term targets that we provide, or if we find it necessary to revise such guidance or targets, the market value of our common stock or other securities could be adversely affected.

Our revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities are subject to foreign currency exchange rate fluctuation risk.

We are subject to foreign currency exchange rate fluctuation risk. Exchange rate movements can impact the U.S. dollar reported value of our revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities denominated in non-U.S. dollar currencies or where the currency of such items is different than the functional currency of the entity where these items were recorded.  Additionally, the value of assets in index-linked investment products can fluctuate significantly over short periods of time and such volatility may be further impacted by fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. For additional information on our foreign currency exchange rate risk, see Part II, Item 7A “—Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk—Foreign Currency Risk.”

We manage foreign currency exchange rate risk, in part, through the use of derivative financial instruments comprised principally of forward contracts on foreign currency which are not designated as hedging instruments for accounting purposes. Any derivative financial instruments that we are currently party to or may enter into in the future may not be successful, resulting in an adverse impact on our results of operations.

To the extent that our international activities recorded in local currencies increase or decrease in the future, our exposure to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates may correspondingly increase and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.  Depending on the final terms reached between the UK and the EU, Brexit has and may continue to cause significant volatility in currency exchange rates, especially between the U.S. dollar and the British pound sterling. The weaker British pound sterling means that revenues earned in British pound sterling translate to lower reported U.S. dollar revenues.  The weaker British pound sterling also means that expenses incurred in British pound sterling translate to lower reported U.S. dollar expenses. The weaker British pound sterling could also impair the purchasing power of our clients and could result in decreased demand for our products and services. The fall in the British pound sterling relative to the U.S. dollar, and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar relative to a number of currencies including the British pound sterling, could have significant impacts on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

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Our indebtedness could materially adversely affect our cash flows and financial flexibility. Our variable rate indebtedness could subject us to interest rate risk, which could cause our debt service obligations to increase significantly.

For an overview of our current outstanding indebtedness and history of our offerings, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” below. Although we believe that our cash flows will be sufficient to service our outstanding indebtedness, we cannot provide assurance that we will generate and maintain cash flows sufficient to permit us to pay the principal, premium, if any, and interest on our indebtedness. Our ability to make payments on indebtedness and to fund planned capital expenditures depends on our ability to generate and access cash in the future, which, in turn, is subject to general economic, financial, competitive, regulatory and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. If we are unable to generate sufficient cash flow from operations or access offshore cash, we may need to refinance all or a portion of our indebtedness on or before maturity and we may not be able to secure additional financing on terms favorable or acceptable to us or at all. Absent sufficient cash flow from our operations and the ability to refinance, we could also be forced to sell assets to make up for any shortfall in our payment obligations. The restrictive covenants in our debt agreements, however, limit our and our subsidiaries’ ability to sell assets and also restrict the use of proceeds from such a sale. If we cannot refinance or otherwise pay our obligations as they mature and fund our liquidity needs, our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, liquidity, ability to obtain financing and ability to compete in our industry could be materially adversely affected.

We may need to incur additional debt from time to time under our existing debt agreements to finance working capital, capital expenditures, investments or acquisitions, or for other purposes. If we do so, the risks related to our level of indebtedness could intensify, including by making it difficult for us to optimally capitalize and manage the cash flow for our business or placing us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors that have less indebtedness.

Furthermore, the terms of our debt agreements include restrictive covenants that limit, among other things, our and our existing and future subsidiaries’ financial flexibility. If we are unable to comply with the restrictions and covenants in our debt agreements, there could be a default that, in some cases, if continuing, could result in the accelerated payment of our debt obligations or the termination of borrowing commitments on the part of the lenders under our Revolving Credit Agreement. See Part II, Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources” for a description of the restrictive covenants in our debt agreements.

In 2017, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (the “FCA”), which regulates London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”), announced that the FCA will no longer persuade or compel banks to submit rates for the calculation of the LIBOR benchmark after 2021. This announcement indicates that the continuation of LIBOR on the current basis cannot be guaranteed after 2021, and there is a substantial risk that LIBOR will be discontinued or modified by the end of 2021, and although alternative reference rates have been proposed, it is unknown whether they will attain market acceptance as replacements of LIBOR. At this time, it is not possible to predict the effect that these developments, any discontinuance, modification or other reforms to LIBOR or any other reference rate, or the establishment of alternative reference rates may have on LIBOR, other benchmarks or floating rate debt instruments, including borrowings under the Credit Agreement, dated as of November 20, 2014, by and among the Company, the guarantors party thereto, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., as administrative agent and the lenders from time to time party thereto, as amended, supplemented, modified or amended and restated from time to time (the “Revolving Credit Facility”). The use of alternative reference rates or other reforms could cause the interest rate calculated for such borrowings to increase or otherwise fail to correlate over time with the interest rates and/or payments that would have been made on our obligations if LIBOR was available in its current form, or have other adverse effects on us. To address the transition away from LIBOR, our Revolving Credit Facility provides for a process to amend our Revolving Credit Facility to substitute LIBOR with a replacement rate under certain circumstances. However, there is no guarantee that any such amendment for a replacement rate would become effective, and in the event that such amendment does not become effective, we may be required to pay a rate of interest higher than expected on the amount owed under our Revolving Credit Facility.

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A change in our credit ratings could materially adversely affect our financial condition.

Our credit ratings are not recommendations to buy, sell or hold any of our common stock or outstanding debt. Our outstanding debt under the Senior Notes currently has non-investment grade ratings. Any rating assigned to such debt is subject to ongoing evaluation by the credit rating agencies and could be lowered or withdrawn entirely at any time by either or both agencies if, in the agency’s judgment, future circumstances relating to the basis of the rating so warrant. Such future circumstances include, but are not limited to, adverse changes to our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows, or revisions to our corporate strategy pertaining to capitalization or leverage. For example, on July 28, 2015, the Board of Directors authorized corporate action that led to a change in the Company’s target leverage and interest expense, allowing for the issuance of our 2025 Senior Notes on August 13, 2015. Following the Board of Directors’ authorization, one of the ratings agencies described the increase as substantially higher than current leverage levels and as a result downgraded our credit rating. This downgrade, and any further downgrade, could adversely affect the amount of capital we can access, as well as the terms of any financing we obtain.

In addition, our debt covenants contain certain obligations that are triggered by a change in our credit rating, including obligations to make repurchase offers to the noteholders of our Senior Notes if the following two conditions are met at the time of, or as a result of, a change of control or sale of substantially all of the Company’s assets: (i) the Senior Notes are rated below investment grade by each rating agency that rates the Senior Notes and (ii) the Senior Notes are downgraded by any rating agency.

Any adverse change in our credit rating could have a negative effect on our liquidity and future growth through transactions in which we rely on the ability to receive debt capital at an advantageous cost and on favorable terms. Accordingly, actual or anticipated changes or downgrades to or withdrawal of our credit ratings, including any announcement that our ratings are under review or have been assigned a negative outlook, could result in damage to our brand and reputation and have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows and on the market value of our common stock and outstanding debt.

We may have exposure to tax liabilities in various jurisdictions. Future changes in tax law could materially affect our tax obligations and effective tax rate. 

We are subject to income taxes, as well as non-income or indirect taxes, in the U.S. and various foreign jurisdictions. Significant judgment is required in determining our global provision for income taxes and other tax liabilities. In the ordinary course of a global business, there are many intercompany transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. Changes in domestic and international tax laws could negatively impact our overall effective tax rate.  In particular, Brexit could create uncertainty with respect to our corporate tax rate as well as the tax rates of our employees based in the UK.

The 2017 U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“Tax Reform”) was enacted on December 22, 2017, and significantly affected U.S. tax law by changing how the U.S. imposes income tax on multinational corporations. Tax Reform requires complex computations not previously provided in U.S. tax law. Further, compliance with Tax Reform and the accounting for such provisions require accumulation of information not previously required or regularly produced. The U.S. Department of Treasury has broad authority, and is continuing, to issue regulations and interpretative guidance that may significantly impact how we will apply the law and may impact our results of operations.

We are regularly under audit by tax authorities. Although we believe that our tax provisions are reasonable, there can be no assurance that the final determination of tax audits or tax disputes will not be different from what is reflected in our historical income tax provisions and accruals. To the extent we are required to pay amounts in excess of our reserves, such differences could have a material adverse effect on our Consolidated Statement of Income for a particular future period. In addition, an unfavorable tax settlement could require use of our cash and result in an increase in our effective tax rate in the period in which such resolution occurs.

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Our investments in recorded goodwill and other intangible assets as a result of acquisitions, including goodwill and other intangible assets resulting from our acquisitions, could be impaired as a result of future business conditions, requiring us to record substantial write-downs that would reduce our operating income.

We have goodwill and intangible assets of $1,824.4 million recorded on our balance sheet as of December 31, 2019. We evaluate the recoverability of recorded goodwill amounts annually or when evidence of potential impairment exists. Intangible assets are reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value of the asset may not be recoverable. These impairment tests are based on several factors requiring management’s judgment. Changes in fair market valuations and our operating performance or business conditions, in general, could result in future impairments of goodwill or intangible assets which could materially adversely affect our results of operations. In addition, if we are not successful in achieving anticipated operating efficiencies associated with acquisitions, our goodwill and intangible assets may become impaired.

 

 

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

Nothing required to be disclosed.

 

 

Item 2.

Properties

As of December 31, 2019, our principal offices consisted of the following leased properties:

 

Location

 

Square Feet

 

 

Expiration Date

Mumbai, India

 

 

126,286

 

 

August 31, 2023

New York, New York

 

 

125,811

 

 

February 28, 2033

Budapest, Hungary

 

 

70,833

 

 

February 28, 2029

Monterrey, Mexico

 

 

46,569

 

 

October 31, 2028

Berkeley, California

 

 

34,178

 

 

February 28, 2030

Manila, Philippines

 

 

31,543

 

 

February 28, 2027

London, England

 

 

30,519

 

 

December 25, 2026

Norman, Oklahoma

 

 

23,664

 

 

May 31, 2024

Boston, Massachusetts

 

 

13,506

 

 

November 30, 2021

 

As of December 31, 2019, we have more than 30 leased and occupied locations of which the principal offices are listed above. We also have additional office locations, including but not limited to, the following leased locations (in descending order of square footage): Chicago, Illinois; Geneva, Switzerland; San Francisco, California; Beijing, China; Frankfurt, Germany; Shanghai, China; Hong Kong, China; Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; Portland, Maine; Sydney, Australia; Toronto, Canada; and Singapore.

We believe that our properties are in good operating condition and adequately serve our current business operations. We also anticipate that suitable additional or alternative space, including those under lease options, will be available at commercially reasonable terms for future expansion.

Item 3.

Various lawsuits, claims and proceedings have been or may be instituted or asserted against us in the ordinary course of business. While the amounts claimed could be substantial, the ultimate liability cannot now be determined because of the considerable uncertainty that exists. Therefore, it is possible that our business, operating results, financial condition or cash flows in a particular period could be materially adversely affected by certain contingencies. However, based on facts currently available, management believes that the disposition of matters that are currently pending or asserted will not, individually or in the aggregate, have a material effect on our business, operating results, financial condition or cash flows.

 

 

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

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PART II

 

 

Item 5.

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

Stock Price and Dividends

Our common stock has traded on the New York Stock Exchange since November 15, 2007 and trades under the symbol “MSCI.” As of February 11, 2020, there were 118 shareholders of record of our common stock.

Dividend Policy

The payment amounts of future dividends will be determined by the Board of Directors in light of conditions then existing, including our earnings, financial condition and capital requirements, business conditions, corporate law requirements and other factors. See Part II, Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources” for additional information on our dividend policy.

The Transfer Agent and Registrar for our common stock is Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc.

Equity Compensation Plans

On February 18, 2016, the Board of Directors, upon the recommendation of the Compensation & Talent Management Committee of the Board of Directors (the “Compensation Committee”), approved the MSCI Inc. 2016 Non-Employee Directors Compensation Plan (the “Directors Plan”), a cash and equity incentive compensation plan that was approved by shareholders at the Company’s 2016 annual meeting of shareholders. The Directors Plan replaced the Company’s then existing non-employee director compensation plan—the MSCI Inc. Independent Directors’ Equity Compensation Plan (the “2011 Plan”). The total number of shares authorized to be awarded under the Directors Plan is 352,460, which is equal to the number of shares that remained available for issuance under the 2011 Plan.

Under the Directors Plan, directors that are not employees of the Company receive annual Board retainer fees and fees for serving on the Company’s committees, if applicable, and a director may make an election to receive all or any portion of such director’s retainer and committee fees in shares of our common stock in lieu of cash. Non-employee directors are entitled to receive an annual grant of $160,000 and the lead director is entitled to an additional $50,000 in stock units (a total of $210,000), in each case, subject to a one-year vesting schedule. Effective May 1, 2020, non-employee directors will be entitled to receive an annual grant of $165,000 and the lead director will be entitled to an additional $50,000 in stock units (a total of $215,000), which will also be subject to a one-year vesting schedule. Under the MSCI Inc. Non-Employee Directors Deferral Plan, directors may elect to defer receipt of all or any portion of any shares of our common stock issuable upon conversion of any stock unit or any retainer elected to be paid in shares of our common stock until (i) 60 days following separation of service or (ii) the earlier of a specified date or 60 days following separation of service.

On February 18, 2016, the Board of Directors, upon the recommendation of the Compensation Committee, approved the MSCI Inc. 2016 Omnibus Plan (“Omnibus Plan”), an equity incentive compensation plan that was approved by shareholders at the Company’s 2016 annual meeting of shareholders. The Omnibus Plan replaced the Company’s then existing equity compensation plan—the MSCI Inc. Amended and Restated 2007 Equity Incentive Compensation Plan (as amended, the “2007 Plan”). Compensation paid to the Company’s executive officers historically complied with the performance-based compensation exception under 162(m) of the IRC (“162(m)”) by being granted pursuant to the MSCI Inc. Performance Formula and Incentive Plan (the “Performance Plan”). Shareholder approval of the Omnibus Plan constituted approval of the material terms of the performance goals under the Omnibus Plan for purposes of 162(m). Despite the changes implemented by Tax Reform, the Company will continue to maintain the Performance Plan and may make awards pursuant to it.

27


 

Pursuant to the Omnibus Plan, the Company reserved 7,565,483 shares of common stock for issuance; plus any additional shares which become available due to forfeiture, expiration or cancellation of outstanding awards, which were registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”) following approval by the Company’s shareholders. This is in addition to currently outstanding awards under the 2007 Plan. The Omnibus Plan permits the Compensation Committee to make grants of a variety of equity-based awards (such as stock options, stock appreciation rights, restricted stock units, restricted stock, performance awards and other stock-based awards) totaling up to 7,565,483 and other cash-based awards to eligible recipients, including employees and consultants. No awards will be granted under the Omnibus Plan after the earliest to occur of (i) April 28, 2026, (ii) the maximum number of shares available for issuance having been issued and (iii) the Board of Directors terminating the Omnibus Plan in accordance with its terms.  

The following table presents certain information with respect to our equity compensation plans at December 31, 2019:

 

 

 

Number of

Securities to

be Issued

Upon

Vesting of

Restricted

Stock Units

and

Exercise of

Outstanding

Options

a

 

 

Weighted

Average

Unit Award

Value of

Restricted

Stock Units

and

Weighted

-Average

Exercise

Price of

Outstanding

Options

b

 

 

Number of

Securities

Remaining

Available for

Future

Issuance

under Equity

Compensation

Plans

(excluding

securities

reflected

in column (a))

c

 

Equity Compensation Plans Not Approved by Security

   Holders

 

 

 

 

$

 

 

 

 

Equity Compensation Plans Approved by Security

   Holders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSCI Amended and Restated 2007 Equity Incentive

   Compensation Plan

 

 

21,386

 

 

$

54.55

 

 

 

 

MSCI Inc. 2016 Omnibus Plan

 

 

729,226

 

 

$

123.48

 

 

 

4,945,088

 

MSCI Inc. 2016 Non-Employee Directors

   Compensation Plan

 

 

6,603

 

 

$

225.38

 

 

 

290,500

 

Total

 

 

757,215

 

 

$

122.42

 

 

 

5,235,588

 

Stock Repurchases

The Board of Directors has approved a stock repurchase program for the purchase of the Company’s common stock in the open market. See Note 10, “Shareholders’ Equity (Deficit),” of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included herein for additional information on our stock repurchase program.

The following table provides information with respect to purchases made by or on behalf of the Company of its common stock during the quarter ended December 31, 2019. There were no other share repurchases during the quarter outside of the repurchases noted below.

 


28


 

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

Period

 

Total

Number of

Shares

Purchased (1)

 

 

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 (2)

 

October 1, 2019-October 31, 2019

 

 

137

 

 

$

222.58

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

1,456,072,000

 

November 1, 2019-November 30, 2019

 

 

2,989

 

 

$

245.86

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

1,456,072,000

 

December 1, 2019-December 31, 2019

 

 

19,217

 

 

$

261.21

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

1,456,072,000

 

Total

 

 

22,343

 

 

$

258.92

 

 

 

-

 

 

$

1,456,072,000

 

 

(1)  

Includes (i) shares purchased by the Company on the open market under the 2019 Repurchase Program; (ii) shares withheld to satisfy tax withholding obligations on behalf of employees that occur upon vesting and delivery of outstanding shares underlying restricted stock units; (iii) shares withheld to satisfy tax withholding obligations and exercise price on behalf of employees that occur upon exercise and delivery of outstanding shares underlying stock options; and (iv) shares held in treasury under the MSCI Inc. Non-Employee Directors Deferral Plan. The value of shares withheld to satisfy tax withholding obligations was determined using the fair market value of the Company’s common stock on the date of withholding, using a valuation methodology established by the Company.

(2)  

See Note 10, “Shareholders’ Equity” of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements included herein for further information regarding our stock repurchase programs.

Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities

Since January 1, 2017, the Company has issued an aggregate principal amount of $1,500.0 million in senior unsecured notes in the amounts of $500.0 million during the year ended December 31, 2018 and $1,000.0 million during the year ended December 31, 2019, to qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and to certain non-U.S. persons in accordance with Regulation S under the Securities Act. The Company completed its private placement offering of $500.0 million aggregate principal amount of 5.375% senior unsecured notes due 2027 (the “2027 Senior Notes”) on May 15, 2018.  The Company issued $1,000.0 million aggregate principal amount of 4.000% senior unsecured notes due 2029 (the “2029 Senior Notes”) in November 2019 by completing a private placement offering of $500.0 million aggregate principal amount of the 2029 Senior Notes on November 7, 2019 with an add-on of $500.0 million aggregate principal amount of the 2029 Senior Notes on November 20, 2019. The Company used a portion of the net proceeds from the 2029 Senior Notes, together with available cash, for the partial pre-maturity redemption of $500.0 million aggregate principal amount of the $800.0 million aggregate principal amount of 5.250% senior unsecured notes due 2024 (the “2024 Senior Notes”). The 2024 Senior Notes, the 2027 Senior Notes and the 2029 Senior Notes have not been registered under the Securities Act or any state securities laws.

There were no unregistered sales of equity securities in the year ended December 31, 2019.

Use of Proceeds from Sale of Registered Securities

None.

29


 

FIVE-YEAR STOCK PERFORMANCE GRAPH

The following graph compares the cumulative total shareholders’ return on our common stock, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index and the NYSE Composite Index since December 31, 2014 assuming an investment of $100 at the closing price on December 31, 2014. In calculating total annual shareholders’ return, reinvestment of dividends, if any, is assumed. The indexes are included for comparative purposes only. They do not necessarily reflect management’s opinion that such indexes are an appropriate measure of the relative performance of the common stock. This graph is not “soliciting material,” is not to be deemed filed with the SEC and is not to be incorporated by reference in any of our filings under the Securities Act or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, whether made before or after the date hereof and irrespective of any general incorporation language in any such filing. 

 

Total Investment Value

 

 

 

Years Ended

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

 

2015

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

MSCI Inc.

 

$

100

 

 

$

154

 

 

$

170

 

 

$

277

 

 

$

327

 

 

$

579

 

S&P 500

 

$

100

 

 

$

101

 

 

$

114

 

 

$

138

 

 

$

132

 

 

$

174

 

NYSE Composite Index

 

$

100

 

 

$

96

 

 

$

107

 

 

$

127

 

 

$

116

 

 

$

146

 

 

Source: S&P Global

30


 

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

Our selected consolidated financial data for the periods presented should be read in conjunction with “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the consolidated financial statements and notes thereto beginning on page F-1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

As of or For the

 

 

 

 

Years Ended

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018 (1)

 

 

 

2017

 

 

 

2016

 

 

2015 (2)

 

 

 

 

(in thousands, except operating margin and per share data)

Operating revenues

 

$

1,557,796

 

 

$

1,433,984

 

 

$

1,274,172

 

 

$

1,150,669

 

 

$

1,075,013

 

 

Total operating expenses

 

 

802,095

 

 

 

747,086

 

 

 

694,402

 

 

 

662,565

 

 

 

671,115

 

 

Operating income

 

 

755,701

 

 

 

686,898

 

 

 

579,770

 

 

 

488,104

 

 

 

403,898

 

 

Other expense (income), net

 

 

152,383

 

 

 

57,002

 

 

 

112,871

 

 

 

102,166

 

 

 

54,344

 

 

Provision for income taxes

 

 

39,670

 

 

 

122,011

 

 

 

162,927

 

 

 

125,083

 

 

 

119,516

 

 

Income from continuing operations, net

   of income taxes

 

 

563,648

 

 

 

507,885

 

 

 

303,972

 

 

 

260,855

 

 

 

230,038

 

 

Income (loss) from discontinued

   operations, net of income taxes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(6,390

)

 

Net income

 

$

563,648

 

 

$

507,885

 

 

$

303,972

 

 

$

260,855

 

 

$

223,648

 

 

Operating margin

 

 

48.5

%

 

 

47.9

%

 

 

45.5

%

 

 

42.4

%

 

 

37.6

%

 

Basic earnings per share:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earnings per basic common share

   from continuing operations

 

$

6.66

 

 

$

5.83

 

 

$

3.36

 

 

$

2.72

 

 

$

2.11

 

 

Earnings per basic common share

   from discontinued operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(0.06

)

 

Earnings per basic common share

 

$

6.66

 

 

$

5.83

 

 

$

3.36

 

 

$

2.72

 

 

$

2.05

 

 

Diluted earnings per share:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earnings per diluted common share

   from continuing operations

 

$

6.59

 

 

$

5.66

 

 

$

3.31

 

 

$

2.70

 

 

$

2.09

 

 

Earnings per diluted common share

   from discontinued operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(0.06

)

 

Earnings per diluted common share

 

$

6.59

 

 

$

5.66

 

 

$

3.31

 

 

$

2.70

 

 

$

2.03

 

 

Weighted average shares outstanding used

   in computing earnings per share

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

 

84,644

 

 

 

87,179

 

 

 

90,336

 

 

 

95,986

 

 

 

109,124

 

 

Diluted

 

 

85,536

 

 

 

89,701

 

 

 

91,914

 

 

 

96,540

 

 

 

109,926

 

 

Dividends declared per common share

 

$

2.52

 

 

$

1.92

 

 

$

1.32

 

 

$

1.00

 

 

$

0.80

 

 

31


 

 


 

 

As of or For the

 

 

 

 

Years Ended

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

 

2019 (3)

 

 

2018 (1)

 

 

 

2017

 

 

 

2016

 

 

2015 (2)

 

 

 

 

(in thousands)

Cash and cash equivalents

 

$

1,506,567

 

 

$

904,176

 

 

$

889,502

 

 

$

791,834

 

 

$

777,706

 

 

Accounts receivable (net of allowances)

 

$

499,268

 

 

$

473,433

 

 

$

327,597

 

 

$

221,504

 

 

$

208,239

 

 

Goodwill and intangibles, net of

   accumulated amortization

 

$

1,824,355

 

 

$

1,826,564

 

 

$

1,882,457

 

 

$

1,903,490

 

 

$

1,957,111

 

 

Total assets

 

$

4,204,439

 

 

$

3,387,952

 

 

$

3,275,668

 

 

$

3,082,578

 

 

$

3,146,987

 

 

Deferred revenue

 

$

574,656

 

 

$

537,977

 

 

$

374,365

 

 

$

334,358

 

 

$

317,552

 

 

Long-term debt, net of current maturities

 

$

3,071,926

 

 

$

2,575,502

 

 

$

2,078,093

 

 

$

2,075,201

 

 

$

1,579,404

 

 

Total shareholders' equity (deficit)

 

$

(76,714

)

 

$

(166,494

)

 

$

401,012

 

 

$

317,605

 

 

$

901,487

 

 

 

(1)

Includes the impact of the Financial Engineering Associates, Inc. (“FEA”) and Investor Force Holdings, Inc. (“InvestorForce”) divestitures.

(2)

Includes the impact of the Insignis business (“Insignis”) from the October 16, 2015 acquisition date, which was not material.

(3)

Reflects the impact of the adoption on January 1, 2019 of Accounting Standards Update 2016-02, "Lease (Topic 842)," the impact of which was the inclusion of $166.4 million of right-of-use assets on the Company's Consolidated Statement of Financial Condition as of December 31, 2019.

 

 

32


 

Item 7.

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

The following discussion and analysis of the financial condition and results of our operations for the year ended December 31, 2019 should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The discussion summarizing the significant factors affecting the results of operations and financial condition of MSCI for the year ended December 31, 2018 can be found in Part II, “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018 (the “2018 Annual Report”), which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 22, 2019.

Overview

 

We are a leading provider of critical decision support tools and services for the global investment community.  Leveraging our knowledge of the global investment process and our expertise in research, data and technology, our actionable solutions power better investment decisions by enabling our clients to understand and analyze key drivers of risk and return and confidently and efficiently build more effective portfolios.

 

Investors all over the world use our tools and services to gain insight and improve transparency throughout their investment processes, including to help define their investment universe, inform and analyze their asset allocation and portfolio construction decisions, measure and manage portfolio performance and risk, conduct performance attribution, implement sustainable and other investment strategies, design and issue ETFs and other index-enabled financial products, and facilitate reporting to stakeholders.  

 

Our industry-leading, research-enhanced products and services include indexes; portfolio construction and risk management analytics; ESG research and ratings; and real estate benchmarks, return-analytics and market insights.  Through our integrated franchise we provide solutions across our products and services to support our clients’ dynamic and complex needs.  We are flexible in the delivery of our content and capabilities, much of which can be accessed by our clients through multiple channels and platforms.  

 

We are focused on staying at the forefront of investment trends to address the evolving needs of our clients in a changing industry.  In order to most effectively serve our clients, we are committed to driving an integrated solutions-based approach, achieving service excellence, enhancing our differentiated research and content, and delivering flexible, cutting-edge technology and platforms.    

 

Our clients comprise a wide spectrum of the global investment industry and include the following key client types:

 

 

Asset owners (pension funds, endowments, foundations, central banks, sovereign wealth funds, family offices and insurance companies)

 

Asset managers (institutional funds and accounts, mutual funds, hedge funds, ETFs, insurance products, private banks and real estate investment trusts)

 

Financial intermediaries (banks, broker-dealers, exchanges, custodians, trust companies and investment consultants)

 

Wealth managers (including an increasing number of “robo-advisors”)

 

As of December 31, 2019, we had offices in more than 30 cities across more than 20 countries to help serve our diverse client base, with 49.0% of our revenues coming from clients in the Americas, 36.0% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (“EMEA”) and 15.0% in Asia and Australia.

In evaluating our financial performance, we focus on revenue and profit growth, including results accounted for under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“GAAP”) as well as non-GAAP measures, for the Company as a whole and by operating segment. In addition, we focus on operating metrics, including Run Rate, subscription sales and Retention Rate, to manage the business. Our business is not highly capital intensive and, as such, we expect to continue to convert a high percentage of our profits into excess cash in the future. Our growth strategy includes: (a) expanding leadership in research-enhanced content, (b) strengthening existing and new client relationships by providing solutions, (c) improving access to our solutions through cutting-edge technology and platforms, (d) expanding value-added service offerings and (e) executing strategic relationships and acquisitions with complementary content and technology companies.

33


 

 

Key Financial Metrics and Drivers

As discussed in the previous section, we utilize a portfolio of key financial metrics to manage the Company, including GAAP and non-GAAP measures. As detailed below, we review revenues by type and by segment, or by major product line. We also review expenses by activity, which provides more transparency into how resources are being deployed. In addition, we utilize operating metrics including Run Rate, subscription sales and Retention Rate to analyze past performance and to provide insight into our latest reported portfolio of recurring business.

In the discussion that follows, we provide certain variances excluding the impact of foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations. Foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations reflect the difference between the current period results as reported compared to the current period results recalculated using the foreign currency exchange rates in effect for the comparable prior period. While operating revenues adjusted for the impact of foreign currency fluctuations includes asset-based fees that have been adjusted for the impact of foreign currency fluctuations, the underlying AUM, which is the primary component of asset-based fees, is not adjusted for foreign currency fluctuations. Approximately two-thirds of the AUM are invested in securities denominated in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, and accordingly, any such impact is excluded from the disclosed foreign currency-adjusted variances.

Revenues

Our revenues are characterized by type, which broadly reflects the nature of how they are recognized or earned. Our revenue types are recurring subscription, asset-based fees and non-recurring revenues. We also group our revenues by segment and provide the revenue type within each segment.

Recurring subscription revenues represent fees earned from clients primarily under renewable contracts and are generally recognized ratably over the term of the license or service pursuant to the contract terms. The fees are recognized as we provide the product and service to the client over the license period and are generally billed in advance, prior to the license start date.

Asset-based fees represent fees earned on the AUM linked to our indexes from independent third-party sources or the most recently reported information provided by the client. Asset-based fees also include revenues related to futures and options contracts linked to our indexes, which are primarily based on trading volumes.

Non-recurring revenues primarily represent fees earned on products and services where we do not have renewal contracts and primarily include revenues for providing historical data, certain implementation services and other special client requests, which are generally recognized at a point in time.   

Operating Expenses

We group our operating expenses into the following activity categories:

 

Cost of revenues;

 

Selling and marketing;

 

Research and development (“R&D”);

 

General and administrative (“G&A”);

 

Amortization of intangible assets; and

 

Depreciation and amortization of property, equipment and leasehold improvements.

Costs are assigned to these activity categories based on the nature of the expense or, when not directly attributable, an estimated allocation based on the type of effort involved.

34


 

Cost of Revenues

Cost of revenues expenses consist of costs related to the production and servicing of our products and services and primarily includes related information technology costs, including data center, platform and infrastructure costs; costs to acquire, produce and maintain market data information; costs of research to support and maintain existing products; costs of product management teams; costs of client service and consultant teams to support customer needs; as well as other support costs directly attributable to the cost of revenues including certain human resources, finance and legal costs.

Selling and Marketing

Selling and marketing expenses consist of costs associated with acquiring new clients or selling new products or product renewals to existing clients and primarily includes the costs of our sales and marketing teams, as well as costs incurred in other groups associated with acquiring new business, including product management, research, technology and sales operations.

Research and Development

R&D expenses consist of costs to develop new or enhance existing products and costs to develop new or improved technology and service platforms for the delivery of our products and services and primarily include the costs of development, research, product management, project management and the technology support associated with these efforts.

General and Administrative

G&A expenses consist of costs primarily related to finance operations, human resources, office of the CEO, legal, corporate technology, corporate development and certain other administrative costs that are not directly attributed, but are instead allocated, to a product or service.

Amortization of Intangible Assets

Amortization of intangible assets expense relates to definite-lived intangible assets arising from past acquisitions and internal capitalized software projects. Intangibles arising from past acquisitions consist of customer relationships, trademarks and trade names, technology and software, proprietary processes and data and non-competition agreements. We amortize definite-lived intangible assets over their estimated useful lives. Definite-lived intangible assets are tested for impairment when impairment indicators are present, and, if impaired, written down to fair value based on either discounted cash flows or appraised values. We have no indefinite-lived intangible assets.

Depreciation and Amortization of Property, Equipment and Leasehold Improvements

This category consists of expenses related to depreciating or amortizing the cost of furniture and fixtures, computer and related equipment and leasehold improvements over the estimated useful life of the assets.

Other Expense (Income), Net

This category consists primarily of interest we pay on our outstanding indebtedness, interest we collect on cash and short-term investments, foreign currency exchange rate gains and losses as well as other non-operating income and expense items.

35


 

Non-GAAP Financial Measures

Adjusted EBITDA

“Adjusted EBITDA,” a non-GAAP measure used by management to assess operating performance, is defined as net income before (1) provision for income taxes, (2) other expense (income), net, (3) depreciation and amortization of property, equipment and leasehold improvements, (4) amortization of intangible assets and, at times, (5) certain other transactions or adjustments, including the impact related to the vesting of multi-year restricted stock units granted in 2016 to certain senior executives that are subject to the achievement of multi-year total shareholder return targets, which are performance targets with a market condition (the “2016 Multi-Year PSUs”).

“Adjusted EBITDA expenses,” a non-GAAP measure used by management to assess operating performance, is defined as operating expenses less depreciation and amortization of property, equipment and leasehold improvements and amortization of intangible assets and, at times, certain other transactions or adjustments, including the impact related to the vesting of the 2016 Multi-Year PSUs.

Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA expenses are believed to be meaningful measures of the operating performance of the Company because they adjust for significant one-time, unusual or non-recurring items as well as eliminate the accounting effects of capital spending and acquisitions that do not directly affect what management considers to be the Company’s core operating performance in the period. All companies do not calculate adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA expenses in the same way. These measures can differ significantly from company to company depending on, among other things, long-term strategic decisions regarding capital structure, the tax jurisdictions in which companies operate and capital investments. Accordingly, the Company’s computation of the Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA expenses measures may not be comparable to similarly-titled measures computed by other companies.

Run Rate

Run Rate is a key operating metric and is important because an increase or decrease in our Run Rate ultimately impacts our operating revenues over time. At the end of any period, we generally have subscription and investment product license agreements in place for a large portion of total revenues for the following 12 months. We measure the fees related to these agreements and refer to this as “Run Rate.” See “—Operating MetricsRun Rate” below for additional information on the calculation of this metric.

Subscription Sales

Subscription sales is a key operating metric and is important because new subscription sales increase our Run Rate and ultimately our operating revenues over time. See “—Operating MetricsSubscription Sales” below for additional information.

Retention Rate

Another key operating metric is Retention Rate which is important because subscription cancellations decrease our Run Rate and ultimately our operating revenues over time. See “—Operating MetricsRetention Rate” below for additional information on the calculation of this metric.

 

 

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Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

Our consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with GAAP. These accounting principles require us to make certain estimates and judgments that can affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities as of the date of the consolidated financial statements, as well as the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the periods presented. We believe the estimates and judgments upon which we rely are reasonable based upon information available to us at the time these estimates and judgments are made. To the extent there are material differences between these estimates and actual results, our consolidated financial statements will be affected. See Note 1, “Introduction And Basis Of Presentation—Significant Accounting Policies,” and Note 2, “Recent Accounting Standards Updates,” of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements included herein for a listing of our accounting policies.

 

Factors Affecting the Comparability of Results

Divestitures

On April 9, 2018, we completed the divestiture of FEA for $21.0 million in cash, which resulted in a gain of $10.6 million. FEA was included as a component of the Analytics segment through the date of divestiture. The results of operations from FEA were not material to the Company.  

On October 12, 2018, we completed the divestiture of InvestorForce and received $62.8 million in cash, which resulted in a gain of $46.6 million. InvestorForce was included as a component of the Analytics segment through the date of divestiture. The results of operations from InvestorForce were not material to the Company.  

Share Repurchases

The Board of Directors has approved a stock repurchase program for the purchase of the Company’s common stock. See Note 10, “Shareholders’ Equity (Deficit),” of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included herein for additional information on our stock repurchase program.

The weighted average shares outstanding used to calculate our diluted earnings per share for the year ended December 31, 2019 decreased by 4.6% compared to the year ended December 31, 2018. The decrease primarily reflects the impact of share repurchases made prior to March 31, 2019 pursuant to the 2016 and 2018 Repurchase Programs and the vesting of the restricted stock units that were included in the dilutive share count in the prior year.

Senior Notes

We have an aggregate $3,100.0 million of Senior Notes outstanding as of December 31, 2019. See “–Liquidity and Capital Resources–Senior Notes and Credit Agreement” below and Note 5, “Commitments and Contingencies,” of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included herein for additional information on our Senior Notes and Revolving Credit Agreement.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

Tax Reform which was enacted on December 22, 2017, significantly revised the U.S. corporate income tax by, among other things, lowering U.S. corporate income tax rates, implementing a territorial tax system and imposing a one-time tax on deemed repatriation of historic earnings of foreign subsidiaries (the “Toll Charge”).  

In the year ended December 31, 2018, the Company finalized the Toll Charge and determined the final impact of Tax Reform, resulting in a net benefit of $11.2 million that included a benefit of $5.7 million on the true-up of the Toll Charge and a benefit of $2.6 million for a reduction in the expected withholding taxes from foreign subsidiaries. The Company also recorded a benefit of $2.9 million related to the revaluation of deferred taxes at the lower statutory rate as a result of tax planning.

 

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Results of Operations

Year Ended December 31, 2019 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2018

The following table presents the results of operations for the years indicated:

 

 

 

Years Ended