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. We consolidate assets, liabilities, and results of operations of subsidiaries in which we have a controlling interest and eliminate all significant intercompany accounts and transactions.
We account and report the noncontrolling (minority) interest 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) attributable 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.
As part of our investment management operations, we manage certain funds outside of the United States that are considered variable interest entities. For the majority of these variable interest entities, we do not have a variable interest in them. In cases where we do have a variable interest, we are not the primary beneficiary. Accordingly, we do not consolidate any of these variable interest entities.
Comprehensive Income. In accordance with ASU No. 2011-05, Presentation of Comprehensive Income, 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. In addition, effective January 1, 2013, we adopted FASB ASU No. 2013-02, Comprehensive Income (Topic 220). We show the effects of items reclassified out of each component of accumulated other comprehensive income to net income on the face of the financial statement along with net income.
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 prior years have been reclassified to conform to the current year presentation.
Separately, as a result of our move to a more centralized structure in 2013 (including new positions created, changes in focus for some existing roles, and the refinement of employee cost categorizations as we moved to a more centralized structure), approximately 180 net positions shifted from the general and administrative and sales and marketing categories to cost of revenue. These changes added approximately $14 million of compensation expense to cost of revenue in 2014 versus 2013, and reduced the compensation expense included in the sales and marketing and general and administrative categories by approximately $8 million and $6 million, respectively, in the same period. These changes did not affect total operating expense or operating income for any of the periods presented.
Cash and Cash Equivalents. Cash and cash equivalents consists of cash and investments with original maturities of three months or less. We state them at cost, which approximates fair value. We state the portion of our cash equivalents that are invested in money market funds at fair value, as these funds 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 equity securities, exchange-traded funds, and mutual funds. 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. 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 as of 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:
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 6.
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, 2015, 2014, and 2013, 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 to five years. We include capitalized software development costs related to projects that have not been placed into service in our construction in progress balance.
The table below summarizes our capitalized software development costs for the past three years:
Capitalized software development costs
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, as well as the assets acquired and liabilities assumed, at their full fair values as of the date we obtain control, 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 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, divestitures, and the effect of foreign currency translations. 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. We performed annual impairment reviews in the fourth quarter of 2015, 2014, and 2013. We did not record any impairment losses in 2015, 2014, or 2013.
Intangible Assets. We amortize intangible assets using the straight-line method over their estimated useful lives, which range from one to 25 years. We have no intangible assets with indefinite useful lives. 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 group, we record an impairment loss based on the excess of the carrying amount over the fair value of the asset group. We did not record any impairment losses in 2015, 2014, or 2013.
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.
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 has taken place. If arrangements include an acceptance provision, we generally begin recognizing revenue when we receive 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 Morningstar Data, Morningstar Advisor Workstation (including Morningstar Office), Morningstar Direct, Morningstar Research, Premium Membership subscriptions 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 commercial mortgage- backed securities (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.
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.
Our Investment Advisory business includes a broad range of services. Pricing for consulting services is based on the scope of work and the level of service provided, 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 Workplace 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 Workplace 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 Workplace 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 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 licenses or 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.
Sales Commissions. Through December 31, 2013, we paid sales commissions based on a formula driven by the total contract value of sales opportunities closed, with any subsequent adjustments (such as clawbacks for contract cancellations) reflected in future commission payouts. We considered the corresponding commission expense an incremental direct acquisition cost and treated it as a deferred charge, which we expensed over the term of the underlying sales contracts.
In the first quarter of 2014, we modified our sales incentive plan. The revised plan is based on a combination of net new sales and specific business objectives not solely tied to revenue growth. Because of this new structure and the discretion involved in determining the related incentives, we started expensing sales commissions as incurred instead of amortizing them over the contract terms.
However, we continued to amortize the deferred charge capitalized in connection with sales commissions paid in 2013 and previous periods as part of the previous incentive plan. This amortization added $3.5 million and $9.8 million of sales commission cost in 2015 and 2014, respectively.
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, performance share awards, and stock options. We measure the fair value of our restricted stock units, restricted stock, and performance share awards 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, we estimate 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, Morningstar's full-time employees are generally 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 and include this liability in Accrued Compensation in our Consolidated Balance Sheet.
Income Taxes. We record deferred income taxes for the temporary differences between the carrying amount of assets and liabilities for financial statement purposes and 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. It 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 or 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 mainly reflects the dilutive effect associated with our stock-based compensation plans. We further compute income per share in accordance with FASB ASC 260-10-45-59A, Participating Securities and the Two-Class Method. 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.