Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
The acronyms that appear in these Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements refer to the following:
Accounting Standards Codification
Accounting Standards Update
Emerging Issues Task Force
Financial Accounting Standards Board
Securities and Exchange Commission
Principles of Consolidation. We conduct our business operations through wholly owned or majority-owned operating subsidiaries. The accompanying consolidated financial statements include the accounts of Morningstar, Inc. and our subsidiaries. The assets, liabilities, and results of operations of subsidiaries in which we have a controlling interest have been consolidated. All significant intercompany accounts and transactions have been eliminated.
We account and report the noncontrolling (minority) interests in our Consolidated Financial Statements in accordance with FASB ASC 810, Consolidation. A noncontrolling interest is the portion of equity (net assets) in a subsidiary not attributable, directly or indirectly, to the parent company. We report the noncontrolling interest in our Consolidated Balance Sheet within equity separate from the shareholders' equity attributable to Morningstar, Inc. In addition, we present the net income (loss) and comprehensive income (loss) attributed to Morningstar, Inc.'s shareholders and the noncontrolling interest in our Consolidated Statements of Income, Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income, and Consolidated Statements of Equity.
We account for investments in entities in which we exercise significant influence, but do not control, using the equity method.
Comprehensive Income. In June 2011, the FASB issued ASU No. 2011-05, Presentation of Comprehensive Income. In accordance with ASU No. 2011-05, we present the total of comprehensive income, the components of net income, and the components of other comprehensive income (OCI) in two separate but consecutive statements, our Consolidated Statements of Income and separately, our Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income. We no longer present total comprehensive income in our Consolidated Statement of Equity.
Use of Estimates. The preparation of financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues, and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results may differ from these estimates.
Reclassifications. Certain amounts reported in previous years have been reclassified to conform to the 2011 presentation.
Cash and Cash Equivalents. Cash and cash equivalents consist of cash and investments with original maturities of three months or less. We state them at cost, which approximates fair value. We state at fair value the portion of our cash equivalents that are invested in money market funds, which are actively traded and have quoted market prices.
Investments. We account for our investments in accordance with FASB ASC 320, Investments-Debt and Equity Securities. We classify our investments into three categories: held-to-maturity, trading, and available-for-sale.
Held-to-maturity: We classify certain investments, primarily certificates of deposit, as held-to-maturity securities, based on our intent and ability to hold these securities to maturity. We record held-to-maturity investments at amortized cost in our Consolidated Balance Sheets.
Trading: We classify certain other investments, primarily equity securities, as trading securities, primarily to satisfy the requirements of one of our wholly owned subsidiaries, which is a registered broker-dealer. We include realized and unrealized gains and losses associated with these investments as a component of our operating income in our Consolidated Statements of Income. We record these securities at their fair value in our Consolidated Balance Sheets.
Available-for-sale: Investments not considered held-to-maturity or trading securities are classified as available-for-sale securities. Available-for-sale securities primarily consist of fixed-income securities. We report unrealized gains and losses for available-for-sale securities as other comprehensive income (loss), net of related income taxes. We record these securities at their fair value in our Consolidated Balance Sheets.
Fair Value Measurements. We follow FASB ASC 820, Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures. FASB ASC 820 defines fair value, establishes a framework for measuring fair value, and expands disclosures about fair value measurements. Under FASB ASC 820, fair value is defined as the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date. The standard applies whenever other standards require (or permit) assets or liabilities to be measured at fair value. The standard does not expand the use of fair value in any new circumstances and does not require any new fair value measurements.
FASB ASC 820 uses a fair value hierarchy based on three broad levels of valuation inputs as described below:
Level 1: Valuations based on quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities that the company has the ability to access.
Level 2: Valuations based on quoted prices in markets that are not active or for which all significant inputs are observable, either directly or indirectly.
Level 3: Valuations based on inputs that are unobservable and significant to the overall fair value measurement.
We provide additional information about our cash equivalents and investments that are subject to valuation under FASB ASC 820 in Note 5 in these Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
The Fair Value Option for Financial Assets and Financial Liabilities. FASB ASC 825, Financial Instruments, permits entities the option to measure many financial instruments and certain other items at fair value with changes in fair value recognized in earnings each period. FASB ASC 825 allows the fair value option to be elected on an instrument-by-instrument basis when the asset or liability is initially recognized or when there's an event that gives rise to a new basis of accounting for that instrument. We do not apply this fair value option to any of our eligible assets.
Concentration of Credit Risk. No single customer is large enough to pose a significant credit risk to our operations or financial condition. For the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010, and 2009, no single customer represented 5% or more of our consolidated revenue. If receivables from our customers become delinquent, we begin a collections process. We maintain an allowance for doubtful accounts based on our estimate of the probable losses of accounts receivable.
Property, Equipment, and Depreciation. We state property and equipment at historical cost, net of accumulated depreciation. We depreciate property and equipment primarily using the straight-line method based on the useful life of the asset, which ranges from three to seven years. We amortize leasehold improvements over the lease term or their useful lives, whichever is shorter.
Computer Software and Internal Product Development Costs. We capitalize certain costs in accordance with FASB ASC 350-40, Internal-Use Software, FASB ASC 350-50, Website Development Costs, and FASB ASC 985, Software. Internal product development costs mainly consist of employee costs for developing new web-based products and certain major enhancements of existing products. We amortize these costs on a straight-line basis over the estimated economic life, which is generally three years. Capitalized software development costs related to projects that have not been placed into service yet are included in our construction in progress balance.
Business Combinations. Over the past several years, we have acquired companies that complement our business operations. For each acquisition, we allocate the purchase price to the assets acquired, liabilities assumed, and goodwill. We follow FASB ASC 805, Business Combinations. We recognize and measure the fair value of the acquired operation as a whole, and the assets acquired and liabilities assumed at their full fair values as of the date control is obtained, regardless of the percentage ownership in the acquired operation or how the acquisition was achieved. We expense direct costs related to the business combination, such as advisory, accounting, legal, valuation, and other professional fees, as incurred. We recognize restructuring costs, including severance and relocation for employees of the acquired entity, as post-combination expenses unless the target entity meets the criteria of FASB ASC 420, Exit or Disposal Cost Obligations on the acquisition date.
As part of the purchase price allocation, we follow the requirements of FASB ASC 740, Income Taxes. This includes establishing deferred tax assets or liabilities reflecting the difference between the values assigned for financial statement purposes and values applicable for income tax purposes. In certain acquisitions, the goodwill resulting from the purchase price allocation may not be deductible for income tax purposes. FASB ASC 740 prohibits recognition of a deferred tax asset or liability for temporary differences in goodwill if goodwill is not amortizable and deductible for tax purposes.
Goodwill. Changes in the carrying amount of our recorded goodwill are mainly the result of business acquisitions. In accordance with FASB ASC 350, Intangibles - Goodwill and Other, we do not amortize goodwill; instead, goodwill is subject to an impairment test annually, or whenever indicators of impairment exist. An impairment would occur if the carrying amount of a reporting unit exceeded the fair value of that reporting unit. In 2011, we altered the definition of our reporting units to align with the definition of our operating segments. This realignment occurred because of our successful efforts to integrate acquired businesses and leverage proprietary content across multiple products. As a result, the businesses that previously represented components of our operating segments no longer met the criteria for recognition as reporting units. Our reporting units constitute businesses for which discrete financial information, which is regularly reviewed by management, is available. We performed annual impairment reviews in the fourth quarter of 2011, 2010, and 2009. We did not record any impairment losses in 2011, 2010, or 2009.
Intangible Assets. We amortize intangible assets using the straight-line method over their estimated economic useful lives, which range from one to 25 years. In accordance with FASB ASC 360-10-35, Subsequent Measurement-Impairment or Disposal of Long Lived Assets, we review intangible assets for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value may not be recoverable. If the value of future undiscounted cash flows is less than the carrying amount of an asset, we record an impairment loss based on the excess of the carrying amount over the fair value of the asset. We recorded an impairment loss of approximately $800,000 in 2011. We did not record any impairment losses in 2010 or 2009. The impairment charge is included in our amortization expense on our Consolidated Statements of Income.
Revenue Recognition: We recognize revenue in accordance with SEC SAB Topic 13, Revenue Recognition, ASC 605-25, Revenue Recognition: Multiple Element Arrangements, and ASC 985-605, Software: Revenue Recognition.
Effective January 1, 2011, we adopted FASB ASU No. 2009-13, Revenue Recognition (Topic 605): Multiple-Deliverable Revenue Arrangements. ASU 2009-13 superseded EITF Issue 00-21, Revenue Arrangements with Multiple Deliverables and establishes the accounting and reporting guidance for arrangements when a vendor performs multiple revenue-generating activities, addresses how to separate deliverables, and specifies how to measure and allocate arrangement consideration. We applied this guidance for revenue arrangements entered into or materially modified from January 1, 2011. The adoption of ASU 2009-13 did not significantly affect either the timing or amount of our revenue recognition.
We recognize revenue when all of the following conditions are met:
There is persuasive evidence of an arrangement, as evidenced by a signed contract;
Delivery of our products and services is a prerequisite for recognition of revenue. If arrangements include an acceptance provision, we generally begin recognizing revenue upon the receipt of customer acceptance;
The amount of fees to be paid by the customer is fixed or determinable; and
The collectibility of the fees is reasonably assured.
We generate revenue through sales of Licensed Data, Morningstar Advisor Workstation (including Morningstar Office), Morningstar Direct, Morningstar Equity Research, Premium Membership fees for Morningstar.com, our structured credit research and ratings offerings, and a variety of other investment-related products and services. We generally structure the revenue agreements for these offerings as licenses or subscriptions. We recognize revenue from licenses and subscription sales ratably as we deliver the product or service and over the service obligation period defined by the terms of the customer contract. For new-issue ratings and analysis for CMBS, we charge asset-based fees that are paid by the issuer on the rated balance of the transaction and recognize the revenue immediately upon issuance of the transaction.
We also generate revenue from Internet advertising, primarily from “impression-based” contracts. For advertisers who use our cost-per-impression pricing, we charge fees each time we display their ads on our site.
Investment Consulting includes a broad range of services. Pricing for the consulting services is based on the scope of work and the level of service required, and includes asset-based fees for work we perform that involves investment management or acting as a subadvisor to investment portfolios. In arrangements that involve asset-based fees, we generally invoice clients quarterly in arrears based on average assets for the quarter. We recognize asset-based fees once the fees are fixed and determinable assuming all other revenue recognition criteria are met.
Our Retirement Solutions offerings help retirement plan participants plan and invest for retirement. We offer these services both through retirement plan providers (typically third-party asset management companies that offer proprietary mutual funds) and directly to plan sponsors (employers that offer retirement plans to their employees). For our Retirement Solutions offerings, we provide both a hosted solution as well as proprietary installed software advice solution. Clients can integrate the installed customized software into their existing systems to help investors accumulate wealth, transition into retirement, and manage income during retirement. The revenue arrangements for Retirement Solutions generally extend over multiple years. Our contracts may include one-time setup fees, implementation fees, technology licensing and maintenance fees, asset-based fees for managed retirement accounts, fixed and variable fees for advice and guidance, or a combination of these fee structures. Upon customer acceptance, we recognize revenue ratably over the term of the agreement. We recognize asset-based fees and variable fees in excess of any minimum once the value is fixed and determinable.
Some of our revenue arrangements with our customers combine multiple products and services. These products and services may be provided at different points in time or over different time periods within the same arrangement. We allocate fees to the separate deliverables based on the deliverables’ relative selling price, which is generally based on the price we charge when the same deliverable is sold separately.
We record taxes imposed on revenue-producing transactions (such as sales, use, value-added, and some excise taxes) on a net basis; therefore, we exclude such taxes from revenue in our Consolidated Statements of Income.
Deferred revenue represents the portion of subscriptions billed or collected in advance of the service being provided, which we expect to recognize as revenue in future periods. Certain arrangements may have cancellation or refund provisions. If we make a refund, it typically reflects the amount collected from a customer for which we have not yet provided services. The refund therefore results in a reduction of deferred revenue.
Advertising Costs. Advertising costs include expenses incurred for various print and Internet ads, search engine fees, and direct mail campaigns. We expense advertising costs as incurred. The table below summarizes our advertising expense for the past three years:
Stock-Based Compensation Expense. We account for our stock-based compensation expense in accordance with FASB ASC 718, Compensation—Stock Compensation. Our stock-based compensation expense reflects grants of restricted stock units, restricted stock, and stock options. We measure the fair value of our restricted stock units and restricted stock on the date of grant based on the closing market price of Morningstar's common stock on the day prior to grant. For stock options granted in 2011, we estimated the fair value of our stock options on the date of grant using a Black-Scholes option-pricing model. We amortize the fair values to stock-based compensation expense, net of estimated forfeitures, ratably over the vesting period.
We estimate expected forfeitures of all employee stock-based awards and recognize compensation cost only for those awards expected to vest. We determine forfeiture rates based on historical experience and adjust the estimated forfeitures to actual forfeiture experience as needed.
Liability for Sabbatical Leave. In certain of our operations, we offer employees a sabbatical leave. Although the sabbatical policy varies by region, in general, Morningstar's full-time employees are eligible for six weeks of paid time off after four years of continuous service. We account for our sabbatical liability in accordance with FASB ASC 710-10-25, Compensated Absences. We record a liability for employees' sabbatical benefits over the period employees earn the right for sabbatical leave.
Income Taxes. We record deferred income taxes for the temporary differences between the carrying amount of assets and liabilities for financial statement purposes and the amounts used for income tax purposes in accordance with FASB ASC 740, Income Taxes. FASB ASC 740 prescribes the minimum recognition threshold a tax position is required to meet before being recognized in the financial statements, and also provides guidance on derecognition, measurement, classification, interest and penalties, accounting in interim periods, and disclosure for uncertain tax positions.
We recognize interest and penalties related to unrecognized tax benefits as part of income tax expense in our Consolidated Statements of Income. We classify liabilities related to unrecognized tax benefits as either current liabilities or “Other long-term liabilities” in our Consolidated Balance Sheet, depending on when we expect to make payment.
Income per Share. We compute and present income per share in accordance with FASB ASC 260, Earnings Per Share. The difference between weighted average shares outstanding and diluted shares outstanding primarily reflects the dilutive effect associated with our stock-based compensation plans. Beginning in 2010, we further compute income per share in accordance with FASB ASC 260-10-45-59A, Participating Securities and the Two Class Method.
In May 2010, we issued restricted stock in conjunction with the acquisition of Realpoint, LLC (now Morningstar Credit Ratings, LLC). Because the restricted stock contains nonforfeitable rights to dividends, it meets the criteria of a participating security. Under the two-class method, we allocate earnings between common stock and participating securities. The two-class method includes an earnings allocation formula that determines earnings per share for each class of common stock according to dividends declared and undistributed earnings for the period. For purposes of calculating earnings per share, we reduce our reported net earnings by the amount allocated to participating securities to arrive at the earnings allocated to common stock shareholders.
ASC 260-10-45-59A requires the dilutive effect of participating securities to be calculated using the more dilutive of the treasury stock or the two-class method. We have determined the two-class method to be the more dilutive. As such, we adjusted the earnings allocated to common stock shareholders in the basic earnings per share calculation for the reallocation of undistributed earnings to participating securities to calculate diluted earnings per share.
Foreign Currency. We translate the financial statements of non-U.S. subsidiaries to U.S. dollars using the period-end exchange rate for assets and liabilities and an average exchange rate for revenue and expense. We use the local currency as the functional currency for all of our non-U.S. subsidiaries. We record translation adjustments for non-U.S. subsidiaries as a component of “Other comprehensive income (loss)” in our Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income. We include exchange gains and losses arising from transactions denominated in currencies other than the functional currency in “Other income (expense), net” in our Consolidated Statements of Income.