BlackRock Short Obligations Fund
STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
BlackRock FundsSM
BlackRock Short Obligations Fund
100 Bellevue Parkway, Wilmington, Delaware 19809 • Phone No. (800) 441-7762

    
This Statement of Additional Information of BlackRock Short Obligations Fund (the “Fund”), a series of BlackRock FundsSM (the “Trust”), is not a prospectus and should be read in conjunction with the Prospectuses of the Fund, dated November 28, 2023, as they may be amended or supplemented from time to time (each a “Prospectus” and collectively the “Prospectuses”), which have been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission” or the “SEC”) and can be obtained, without charge, by calling (800) 441-7762 or by writing to the Fund at the above address. The Fund’s Prospectuses are incorporated by reference into this Statement of Additional Information, and Part I of this Statement of Additional Information and the portions of Part II of this Statement of Additional Information that relate to the Fund have been incorporated by reference into the Fund’s Prospectuses. The portions of Part II of this Statement of Additional Information that do not relate to the Fund do not form a part of the Fund’s Statement of Additional Information, have not been incorporated by reference into the Fund’s Prospectuses and should not be relied upon by investors in the Fund. The audited financial statements of the Fund are incorporated into this Statement of Additional Information by reference to the Fund’s Annual Report to Shareholders for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023 (the “Annual Report”). You may request a copy of the Annual Report, at no charge by calling (800) 441-7762 between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Eastern time on any business day.
References to the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “Investment Company Act”), or other applicable law, will include any rules promulgated thereunder and any guidance, interpretations or modifications by the Commission, Commission staff or other authority with appropriate jurisdiction, including court interpretations, and exemptive, no-action or other relief or permission from the Commission, Commission staff or other authority.
Class   Ticker Symbol
Investor A Shares

  BASOX
Class K Shares

  BBSOX
Institutional Shares

  BISOX
  

BlackRock Advisors, LLC — Manager
BlackRock Investments, LLC — Distributor

The date of this Statement of Additional Information is November 28, 2023.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
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PART I  

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I-7

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PART II  

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II-90

II-107

II-110

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PART I: INFORMATION ABOUT BLACKROCK SHORT OBLIGATIONS FUND
Part I of this Statement of Additional Information (“SAI”) sets forth information about BlackRock Short Obligations Fund (“Short Obligations Fund” or the “Fund”), a series of BlackRock FundsSM (the “Trust”). It includes information about the Trust’s Board of Trustees (the “Board”) the advisory and management services provided to and the management fees paid by the Fund and information about other fees applicable to and services provided to the Fund. This Part I of this SAI should be read in conjunction with the Fund’s Prospectuses and those portions of Part II of this SAI that pertain to the Fund.
I. Investment Objective and Policies
Please see the section “Details About the Fund — How the Fund Invests” in the Fund’s Prospectuses for information about the Fund’s investment objective and policies.
In implementing the Fund’s investment strategy, from time to time, BlackRock Advisors, LLC (“BlackRock” or the “Manager”), the Fund’s investment manager, may consider and employ techniques and strategies designed to minimize and defer the U.S. federal income taxes which may be incurred by shareholders in connection with their investment in the Fund.
Set forth below is a listing of some of the types of investments and investment strategies that the Fund may use, and the risks and considerations associated with those investments and investment strategies. Please see Part II of this SAI for further information on these investments and investment strategies. Information that does not apply to the Fund does not form a part of the Fund’s SAI and should not be relied on by investors in the Fund.
Only information that is clearly identified as applicable to the Fund is considered to form a part of the Fund’s SAI.
  Short-Obligations Fund
144A Securities X
Asset-Backed Securities X
Asset-Based Securities  
Precious Metal-Related Securities  
Borrowing and Leverage  
Cash Flows; Expenses  
Cash Management X
Collateralized Debt Obligations  
Collateralized Bond Obligations  
Collateralized Loan Obligations  
Commercial Paper X
Commodity-Linked Derivative Instruments and Hybrid Instruments  
Qualifying Hybrid Instruments  
Hybrid Instruments Without Principal Protection  
Limitations on Leverage  
Counterparty Risk  
Convertible Securities  
Corporate Loans X
Direct Lending  
Credit Linked Securities  
Cyber Security Issues X
Debt Securities X
Inflation-Indexed Bonds X
Investment Grade Debt Obligations X
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  Short-Obligations Fund
High Yield Investments (“Junk Bonds”)  
Mezzanine Investments  
Pay-in-kind Bonds  
Supranational Entities X
Depositary Receipts (ADRs, EDRs and GDRs)  
Derivatives  
Hedging  
Speculation  
Risk Factors in Derivatives  
Correlation Risk  
Counterparty Risk  
Credit Risk  
Currency Risk  
Illiquidity Risk  
Leverage Risk  
Market Risk  
Valuation Risk  
Volatility Risk  
Futures  
Swap Agreements  
Credit Default Swaps and Similar Instruments  
Interest Rate Swaps, Floors and Caps  
Total Return Swaps  
Options  
Options on Securities and Securities Indices  
Call Options  
Put Options  
Options on Government National Mortgage Association (“GNMA”) Certificates  
Options on Swaps (“Swaptions”)  
Foreign Exchange Transactions  
Spot Transactions and FX Forwards  
Currency Futures  
Currency Options  
Currency Swaps  
Distressed Securities  
Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) Integration X
Equity Securities  
Real Estate-Related Securities  
Securities of Smaller or Emerging Growth Companies  
Exchange-Traded Notes (“ETNs”)  
Foreign Investments X
Foreign Investment Risks X
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  Short-Obligations Fund
Foreign Market Risk X
Foreign Economy Risk X
Currency Risk and Exchange Risk  
Governmental Supervision and Regulation/Accounting Standards X
Certain Risks of Holding Fund Assets Outside the United States  
Publicly Available Information  
Settlement Risk X
Sovereign Debt X
Withholding Tax Reclaims Risk X
Funding Agreements X
Guarantees X
Illiquid Investments X
Index Funds  
Tracking Error Risk  
S&P 500 Index  
Russell Indexes  
MSCI Indexes  
FTSE Indexes  
Bloomberg Indexes  
ICE BofA Indexes  
Indexed and Inverse Securities  
Inflation Risk X
Initial Public Offering (“IPO”) Risk  
Interfund Lending Program X
Borrowing, to the extent permitted by the Fund’s investment policies and restrictions X
Lending, to the extent permitted by the Fund’s investment policies and restrictions X
Investment in Emerging Markets X
Brady Bonds  
China Investments Risk X
Investment in Other Investment Companies X
Exchange-Traded Funds  
Lease Obligations X
Life Settlement Investments  
Liquidity Risk Management X
Master Limited Partnerships  
Merger Transaction Risk X
Money Market Obligations of Domestic Banks, Foreign Banks and Foreign Branches of U.S. Banks X
Money Market Securities X
Mortgage-Related Securities X
Mortgage-Backed Securities X
Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (“CMOs”) X
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  Short-Obligations Fund
Adjustable Rate Mortgage Securities X
CMO Residuals X
Stripped Mortgage-Backed Securities X
Tiered Index Bonds  
TBA Commitments  
Mortgage Dollar Rolls  
Net Interest Margin (NIM) Securities  
Municipal Investments X
Risk Factors and Special Considerations Relating to Municipal Bonds X
Description of Municipal Bonds X
General Obligation Bonds X
Revenue Bonds X
Private Activity Bonds (“PABs”) X
Moral Obligation Bonds X
Municipal Notes X
Municipal Commercial Paper X
Municipal Lease Obligations X
Tender Option Bonds X
Yields X
Variable Rate Demand Obligations (“VRDOs”) X
Transactions in Financial Futures Contracts on Municipal Indexes  
Call Rights  
Municipal Interest Rate Swap Transactions  
Insured Municipal Bonds X
Build America Bonds X
Tax-Exempt Municipal Investments X
Participation Notes  
Portfolio Turnover Rates X
Preferred Stock  
Tax-Exempt Preferred Shares  
Trust Preferred Securities  
Real Estate Investment Trusts (“REITs”) X
Recent Market Events X
Reference Rate Replacement Risk X
Repurchase Agreements and Purchase and Sale Contracts X
Restricted Securities X
Reverse Repurchase Agreements X
Rights Offerings and Warrants to Purchase  
Securities Lending X
Short Sales  
Special Purpose Acquisition Companies  
Standby Commitment Agreements  
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  Short-Obligations Fund
Stripped Securities X
Structured Notes  
Taxability Risk  
Temporary Defensive Measures X
U.S. Government Obligations X
U.S. Treasury Obligations X
U.S. Treasury Rolls  
Utility Industries X
When-Issued Securities, Delayed Delivery Securities and Forward Commitments X
Yields and Ratings X
Zero Coupon Securities X
  
Regulation Regarding Derivatives. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) subjects advisers to registered investment companies to regulation by the CFTC if a fund that is advised by the investment adviser either (i) invests, directly or indirectly, more than a prescribed level of its liquidation value in CFTC-regulated futures, options and swaps (“CFTC Derivatives”), or (ii) markets itself as providing investment exposure to such instruments. The CFTC also subjects advisers to registered investment companies to regulation by the CFTC if the registered investment company invests in one or more commodity pools. To the extent the Fund uses CFTC Derivatives, it intends to do so below such prescribed levels and will not market itself as a “commodity pool” or a vehicle for trading such instruments.
The Fund may also have investments in “underlying funds” (and such underlying funds themselves may invest in underlying funds) not advised by BlackRock (which for purposes of the no-action letter referenced below may include certain securitized vehicles, mortgage real estate investment trusts and/or investment companies that may invest in CFTC Derivatives), and therefore may be viewed by the CFTC as commodity pools. BlackRock has no transparency into the holdings of these underlying funds because they are not advised by BlackRock. To address this issue of lack of transparency, the CFTC staff issued a no-action letter on November 29, 2012 permitting the adviser of a fund that invests in such underlying funds and that would otherwise have filed a claim of exclusion pursuant to Rule 4.5 to delay registration as a “commodity pool operator” until six months from the date on which the CFTC issues additional guidance on the treatment of CFTC Derivatives held by underlying funds. BlackRock, the adviser of the Fund, has filed a claim with the CFTC for the Fund to rely on this no-action relief. Accordingly, BlackRock is not subject to registration or regulation as a “commodity pool operator” under the CEA in respect of the Fund.
II. Investment Restrictions
The Fund has adopted restrictions and policies relating to the investment of the Fund’s assets and its activities. Certain of the restrictions are fundamental policies of the Fund and may not be changed without the approval of the holders of a majority of the Fund’s outstanding voting securities (which for this purpose and under the Investment Company Act means the lesser of (i) 67% of the shares represented at a meeting at which more than 50% of the outstanding shares are represented or (ii) more than 50% of the outstanding shares). An investment policy is non-fundamental unless the Prospectus or SAI says that it is fundamental.
Under these fundamental investment restrictions, the Fund may not:
1. Concentrate its investments in a particular industry, as that term is used in the Investment Company Act.
2. Borrow money, except as permitted under the Investment Company Act.
3. Issue senior securities to the extent such issuance would violate the Investment Company Act.
4. Purchase or hold real estate, except the Fund may purchase and hold securities or other instruments that are secured by, or linked to, real estate or interests therein, securities of real estate investment trusts, mortgage-related securities and securities of issuers engaged in the real estate business, and the Fund may purchase and hold real estate as a result of the ownership of securities or other instruments.
5. Underwrite securities issued by others, except to the extent that the sale of portfolio securities by the Fund may be deemed to be an underwriting or as otherwise permitted by applicable law.
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6. Purchase or sell commodities or commodity contracts, except as permitted by the Investment Company Act.
7. Make loans to the extent prohibited by the Investment Company Act.
8. Make any investment inconsistent with the Fund’s classification as a diversified company under the Investment Company Act.
Notations Regarding the Fund’s Fundamental Investment Restrictions
The following notations are not considered to be part of the Fund’s fundamental investment restrictions and are subject to change without shareholder approval.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to concentration set forth in (1) above, the Investment Company Act does not define what constitutes “concentration” in an industry. The Commission staff has taken the position that investment of 25% or more of a fund’s total assets in one or more issuers conducting their principal activities in the same industry or group of industries constitutes concentration. It is possible that interpretations of concentration could change in the future. The policy in (1) above will be interpreted to refer to concentration as that term may be interpreted from time to time. The policy also will be interpreted to permit investment without limit in the following: securities of the U.S. Government and its agencies or instrumentalities; tax-exempt securities of state, territory, possession or municipal governments and their authorities, agencies, instrumentalities or political subdivisions; and repurchase agreements collateralized by any such obligations. Accordingly, issuers of the foregoing securities will not be considered to be members of any industry. There also will be no limit on investment in issuers domiciled in a single jurisdiction or country. Wholly-owned finance companies will be considered to be in the industries of their parents if their activities are primarily related to financing the activities of the parents. Each foreign government will be considered to be a member of a separate industry. With respect to the Fund’s industry classifications, the Fund currently utilizes any one or more of the industry sub-classifications used by one or more widely recognized market indexes or rating group indexes, and/or as defined by Fund management. The policy also will be interpreted to give broad authority to the Fund as to how to classify issuers within or among industries.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to borrowing money set forth above, the Investment Company Act permits the Fund to borrow money in amounts of up to one-third of the Fund’s total assets from banks for any purpose, and to borrow up to 5% of the Fund’s total assets from banks or other lenders for temporary purposes. (The Fund’s total assets include the amounts being borrowed.) In addition, the Fund has received an exemptive order from the SEC permitting it to borrow through the Interfund Lending Program (discussed below), subject to the conditions of the exemptive order. To limit the risks attendant to borrowing, the Investment Company Act requires the Fund to maintain at all times an “asset coverage” of at least 300% of the amount of its borrowings. Asset coverage means the ratio that the value of the Fund’s total assets (including amounts borrowed), minus liabilities other than borrowings, bears to the aggregate amount of all borrowings. Borrowing money to increase portfolio holdings is known as “leveraging.” Certain trading practices and investments, such as reverse repurchase agreements, may be considered to be borrowings or involve leverage and thus are subject to the Investment Company Act restrictions. In accordance with Rule 18f-4 under the Investment Company Act, when the Fund engages in reverse repurchase agreements and similar financing transactions, the Fund may either (i) maintain asset coverage of at least 300% with respect to such transactions and any other borrowings in the aggregate, or (ii) treat such transactions as “derivatives transactions” and comply with Rule 18f-4 with respect to such transactions. Short-term credits necessary for the settlement of securities transactions and arrangements with respect to securities lending will not be considered to be borrowings under the policy. Practices and investments that may involve leverage but are not considered to be borrowings are not subject to the policy.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to underwriting set forth in (5) above, the Investment Company Act does not prohibit the Fund from engaging in the underwriting business or from underwriting the securities of other issuers; in fact, the Investment Company Act permits the Fund to have underwriting commitments of up to 25% of its assets under certain circumstances. Those circumstances currently are that the amount of the Fund’s underwriting commitments, when added to the value of the Fund’s investments in issuers where the Fund owns more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of those issuers, cannot exceed the 25% cap. A fund engaging in transactions involving the acquisition or disposition of portfolio securities may be considered to be an underwriter under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). Although it is not believed that the application of the Securities Act provisions described above would cause the Fund to be engaged in the business of underwriting, the policy in (5) above will be interpreted not to prevent the Fund from engaging in transactions involving the acquisition or disposition of portfolio securities, regardless of whether the Fund may be considered to be an underwriter under the Securities Act or is otherwise engaged in the underwriting business to the extent permitted by applicable law.
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With respect to the fundamental policy relating to lending set forth in (7) above, the Investment Company Act does not prohibit the Fund from making loans (including lending its securities); however, Commission staff interpretations currently prohibit the Fund from lending more than one-third of its total assets, except through the purchase of debt obligations (including lending its securities) or the use of repurchase agreements. In addition, collateral arrangements with respect to options, forward currency and futures transactions and other derivative instruments, as well as delays in the settlement of securities transactions, will not be considered loans.
The Fund is currently classified as a diversified fund under the Investment Company Act. This means that the Fund may not purchase securities of an issuer (other than (i) obligations issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities and (ii) securities of other investment companies) if, with respect to 75% of its total assets, (a) more than 5% of the Fund’s total assets would be invested in securities of that issuer or (b) the Fund would hold more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of that issuer. With respect to the remaining 25% of its total assets, the Fund can invest more than 5% of its assets in one issuer. Under the Investment Company Act, the Fund cannot change its classification from diversified to non-diversified without shareholder approval.
Under its non-fundamental investment restrictions which may be changed by the Board without shareholder approval, the Fund may not:
a. Purchase securities of other investment companies, except to the extent permitted by the Investment Company Act. As a matter of policy, however, the Fund will not purchase shares of any registered open-end investment company or registered unit investment trust, in reliance on Section 12(d)(1)(F) or (G) (the “fund of funds” provisions) of the Investment Company Act, at any time the Fund has knowledge that its shares are purchased by another investment company investor in reliance on the provisions of subparagraph (G) of Section 12(d)(1).
b. Make short sales of securities or maintain a short position, except to the extent permitted by the Fund’s Prospectus and SAI, as amended from time to time, and applicable law.
Unless otherwise indicated, all limitations under the Fund’s fundamental or non-fundamental investment restrictions apply only at the time that a transaction is undertaken. Any change in the percentage of the Fund’s assets invested in certain securities or other instruments resulting from market fluctuations or other changes in the Fund’s total assets will not require the Fund to dispose of an investment until BlackRock determines that it is practicable to sell or close out the investment without undue market or tax consequences.
III. Information on Trustees and Officers
The Board consists of twelve individuals (each, a “Trustee”), ten of whom are not “interested persons” of the Trust as defined in the Investment Company Act (the “Independent Trustees”). The registered investment companies advised by the Manager or its affiliates (the “BlackRock-advised Funds”) are organized into the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex, the BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex, and the iShares Complex (each, a “BlackRock Fund Complex”). The Trust is included in the BlackRock Fund Complex referred to as the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex. The Trustees also oversee as board members the operations of the other open-end registered investment companies included in the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex.
The Board has overall responsibility for the oversight of the Trust and the Fund. The Chair of the Board is an Independent Trustee, and the Chair of each Board committee (each, a “Committee”) is an Independent Trustee. The Board has five standing Committees: an Audit Committee, a Governance and Nominating Committee, a Compliance Committee, a Performance Oversight Committee and an Ad Hoc Topics Committee. The role of the Chair of the Board is to preside at all meetings of the Board and to act as a liaison with service providers, officers, attorneys and other Trustees generally between meetings. The Chair of each Committee performs a similar role with respect to the Committee. The Chair of the Board or the Chair of a Committee may also perform such other functions as may be delegated by the Board or the Committee from time to time. The Independent Trustees meet regularly outside the presence of Fund management, in executive session or with other service providers to the Fund. The Board has regular meetings five times a year, and may hold special meetings if required before its next regular meeting. Each Committee meets regularly to conduct the oversight functions delegated to that Committee by the Board and reports its findings to the Board. The Board and each standing Committee conduct annual assessments of their oversight function and structure. The Board has determined that the Board’s leadership structure is appropriate because it allows the Board to exercise independent judgment over management and to allocate areas of responsibility among Committees and the full Board to enhance effective oversight.
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The Board has engaged the Manager to manage the Fund on a day-to-day basis. The Board is responsible for overseeing the Manager, other service providers, the operations of the Fund and associated risks in accordance with the provisions of the Investment Company Act, state law, other applicable laws, the Trust’s charter, and the Fund’s investment objective and strategies. The Board reviews, on an ongoing basis, the Fund’s performance, operations and investment strategies and techniques. The Board also conducts reviews of the Manager and its role in running the operations of the Fund.
Day-to-day risk management with respect to the Fund is the responsibility of the Manager or of sub-advisers or other service providers (depending on the nature of the risk), subject to the supervision of the Manager. The Fund is subject to a number of risks, including investment, compliance, operational and valuation risks, among others. While there are a number of risk management functions performed by the Manager and the sub-advisers or other service providers, as applicable, it is not possible to eliminate all of the risks applicable to the Fund. Risk oversight forms part of the Board’s general oversight of the Fund and is addressed as part of various Board and Committee activities. The Board, directly or through a Committee, also reviews reports from, among others, management, the independent registered public accounting firm for the Fund, sub-advisers and internal auditors for the investment adviser or its affiliates, as appropriate, regarding risks faced by the Fund and management’s or the service provider’s risk functions. The Committee system facilitates the timely and efficient consideration of matters by the Trustees, and facilitates effective oversight of compliance with legal and regulatory requirements and of the Fund’s activities and associated risks. The Board has appointed a Chief Compliance Officer, who oversees the implementation and testing of the Trust’s compliance program and reports to the Board regarding compliance matters for the Fund and its service providers. The Independent Trustees have engaged independent legal counsel to assist them in performing their oversight responsibilities.
Audit Committee. The members of the Audit Committee (the “Audit Committee”) are Henry R. Keizer (Chair), Neil A. Cotty, Lena G. Goldberg and Kenneth L. Urish, all of whom are Independent Trustees. The principal responsibilities of the Audit Committee are to approve, and recommend to the full Board for approval, the selection, retention, termination and compensation of the Fund’s independent registered public accounting firm (the “Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm”) and to oversee the Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm’s work. The Audit Committee’s responsibilities include, without limitation, to (1) evaluate the qualifications and independence of the Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm; (2) approve all audit engagement terms and fees for the Fund; (3) review the conduct and results of each independent audit of the Fund’s annual financial statements; (4) review any issues raised by the Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm or Fund management regarding the accounting or financial reporting policies and practices of the Fund and the internal controls of the Fund and certain service providers; (5) oversee the performance of the Fund’s Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm; (6) review and discuss with management and the Fund’s Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm the performance and findings of the Fund’s internal auditors; (7) discuss with Fund management its policies regarding risk assessment and risk management as such matters relate to the Fund’s financial reporting and controls; (8) resolve any disagreements between Fund management and the Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm regarding financial reporting; and (9) undertake such other duties and responsibilities as may from time to time be delegated by the Board to the Audit Committee. The Board has adopted a written charter for the Audit Committee. During the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023, the Audit Committee met five times.
Governance and Nominating Committee. The members of the Governance and Nominating Committee (the “Governance Committee”) are Cynthia A. Montgomery (Chair), Susan J. Carter, Collette Chilton and Henry R. Keizer, all of whom are Independent Trustees. The principal responsibilities of the Governance Committee are to (1) identify individuals qualified to serve as Independent Trustees of the Trust and recommend Independent Trustee nominees for election by shareholders or appointment by the Board; (2) advise the Board with respect to Board composition, procedures and committees (other than the Audit Committee); (3) oversee periodic self-assessments of the Board and committees of the Board (other than the Audit Committee); (4) review and make recommendations regarding Independent Trustee compensation; (5) monitor corporate governance matters and develop appropriate recommendations to the Board; (6) act as the administrative committee with respect to Board policies and procedures, committee policies and procedures (other than the Audit Committee) and codes of ethics as they relate to Independent Trustees; and (7) undertake such other duties and responsibilities as may from time to time be delegated by the Board to the Governance Committee. The Governance Committee may consider nominations for Trustees made by the Fund’s shareholders as it deems appropriate. Under the Trust’s Amended and Restated Code of Regulations (“Bylaws”), shareholders must follow certain procedures to nominate a person for election as a Trustee at a shareholder meeting at which Trustees are to be elected. Under these advance notice procedures, notice of the proposed nominee to the Secretary of the Trust must be delivered to or mailed and received at the principal executive offices of the Trust not later than the close of business on the fifth day following the day on which
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notice of the date of the meeting was mailed or public disclosure of the date of the meeting was made, whichever first occurs. The Trust’s Bylaws provide that notice of a proposed nomination must include certain information about the shareholder and the nominee, as well as certain other information, including a written consent of the proposed nominee to serve if elected. Reference is made to the Trust’s Bylaws for more details. The Board has adopted a written charter for the Governance Committee. During the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023, the Governance Committee met seven times.
Compliance Committee. The members of the Compliance Committee (the “Compliance Committee”) are Lena G. Goldberg (Chair), Cynthia A. Montgomery, Donald C. Opatrny, Kenneth L. Urish and Claire A. Walton, all of whom are Independent Trustees. The Compliance Committee’s purpose is to assist the Board in fulfilling its responsibility to oversee regulatory and fiduciary compliance matters involving the Trust, the fund-related activities of BlackRock and any sub-adviser and the Trust’s third-party service providers. The Compliance Committee’s responsibilities include, without limitation, to (1) oversee the compliance policies and procedures of the Trust and its service providers and recommend changes or additions to such policies and procedures; (2) review information on and, where appropriate, recommend policies concerning the Trust’s compliance with applicable law; (3) review reports from, oversee the annual performance review of, and make certain recommendations and determinations regarding the Trust’s Chief Compliance Officer (the “CCO”), including determining the amount and structure of the CCO’s compensation and recommending such amount and structure to the full Board for approval and ratification; and (4) undertake such other duties and responsibilities as may from time to time be delegated by the Board to the Compliance Committee. The Board has adopted a written charter for the Compliance Committee. During the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023, the Compliance Committee met four times.
Performance Oversight Committee. The members of the Performance Oversight Committee (the “Performance Oversight Committee”) are Donald C. Opatrny (Chair), Susan J. Carter, Collette Chilton, Neil A. Cotty and Claire A. Walton, all of whom are Independent Trustees. The Performance Oversight Committee’s purpose is to assist the Board in fulfilling its responsibility to oversee the Fund’s investment performance relative to its agreed-upon performance objectives and to assist the Independent Trustees in their consideration of investment advisory agreements. The Performance Oversight Committee’s responsibilities include, without limitation, to (1) review information on, and make recommendations to the full Board in respect of, the Fund’s investment objective, policies and practices; (2) review information on the Fund’s investment performance; (3) review information on appropriate benchmarks and competitive universes and unusual or exceptional investment matters; (4) review personnel and other resources devoted to management of the Fund and evaluate the nature and quality of information furnished to the Performance Oversight Committee; (5) recommend any required action regarding changes in fundamental and non-fundamental investment policies and restrictions, fund mergers or liquidations; (6) request and review information on the nature, extent and quality of services provided to the shareholders; (7) make recommendations to the Board concerning the approval or renewal of investment advisory agreements; and (8) undertake such other duties and responsibilities as may from time to time be delegated by the Board to the Performance Oversight Committee. The Board has adopted a written charter for the Performance Oversight Committee. During the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023, the Performance Oversight Committee met five times.
Ad Hoc Topics Committee. The members of the Ad Hoc Topics Committee (the “Ad Hoc Topics Committee”) are Mark Stalnecker (Chair) and Lena G. Goldberg, both of whom are Independent Trustees, and John M. Perlowski, who serves as an interested Trustee. The principal responsibilities of the Ad Hoc Topics Committee are to (1) act on routine matters between meetings of the Board; (2) act on such matters as may require urgent action between meetings of the Board; and (3) exercise such other authority as may from time to time be delegated to the Ad Hoc Topics Committee by the Board. The Board has adopted a written charter for the Ad Hoc Topics Committee. During the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023, the Ad Hoc Topics Committee met once.
The Governance Committee has adopted a statement of policy that describes the experience, qualifications, skills and attributes that are necessary and desirable for potential Independent Trustee candidates (the “Statement of Policy”). The Board believes that each Independent Trustee satisfied, at the time he or she was initially elected or appointed a Trustee, and continues to satisfy, the standards contemplated by the Statement of Policy. Furthermore, in determining that a particular Independent Trustee was and continues to be qualified to serve as a Trustee, the Board has considered a variety of criteria, none of which, in isolation, was controlling. The Board believes that, collectively, the Independent Trustees have balanced and diverse experience, skills, attributes and qualifications, which allow the Board to operate effectively in governing the Trust and protecting the interests of shareholders. Among the attributes common to all Independent Trustees are their ability to review critically, evaluate, question and discuss information provided to them, to interact effectively with the Fund’s investment adviser, sub-advisers, other service providers, counsel and the Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm, and to exercise effective business judgment in the performance of their duties as Trustees.
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Each Trustee’s ability to perform his or her duties effectively is evidenced by his or her educational background or professional training; business, consulting, public service or academic positions; experience from service as a board member of the Trust and the other funds in the BlackRock Fund Complexes (and any predecessor funds), other investment funds, public companies, non-profit entities or other organizations; ongoing commitment to and participation in Board and Committee meetings, as well as his or her leadership of standing and ad hoc committees throughout the years; or other relevant life experiences.
The table below discusses some of the experiences, qualifications and skills of each of the Trustees that support the conclusion that each Trustee should serve on the Board.
Trustees   Experience, Qualifications and Skills
Independent Trustees    
Susan J. Carter   Susan J. Carter has over 35 years of experience in investment management. She has served as President & Chief Executive Officer of Commonfund Capital, Inc. (“CCI”), a registered investment adviser focused on non-profit investors, from 1997 to 2013, Chief Executive Officer of CCI from 2013 to 2014 and Senior Advisor to CCI in 2015. Ms. Carter also served as trustee to the Pacific Pension Institute from 2014 to 2018, trustee to the Financial Accounting Foundation from 2017 to 2021, Advisory Board Member for the Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at Tuck School of Business from 1997 to 2021, and Advisory Board Member for Girls Who Invest from 2015 to 2018 and Board Member thereof from 2018 to 2022. She currently serves as Advisory Board Member for Bridges Fund Management, Member of the President’s Counsel for Commonfund and Practitioner Advisory Board Member for Private Capital Research Institute (“PCRI”). These positions have provided her with insight and perspective on the markets and the economy.
Collette Chilton   Collette Chilton has over 20 years of experience in investment management. She held the position of Chief Investment Officer of Williams College from October 2006 to June 2023. Prior to that she was President and Chief Investment Officer of Lucent Asset Management Corporation, where she oversaw approximately $40 billion in pension and retirement savings assets for the company. These positions have provided her with insight and perspective on the markets and the economy.
Neil A. Cotty   Neil A. Cotty has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, including 19 years at Bank of America Corporation and its affiliates, where he served, at different times, as the Chief Financial Officer of various businesses including Investment Banking, Global Markets, Wealth Management and Consumer and also served ten years as the Chief Accounting Officer for Bank of America Corporation. Mr. Cotty has been determined by the Audit Committee to be an audit committee financial expert, as such term is defined in the applicable Commission rules.
Lena G. Goldberg   Lena G. Goldberg has more than 20 years of business and oversight experience, most recently through her service as a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. Prior thereto, she held legal and management positions at FMR LLC/Fidelity Investments as well as positions on the boards of various Fidelity subsidiaries over a 12-year period. She has additional corporate governance experience as a member of board and advisory committees for privately held corporations and non-profit organizations. Ms. Goldberg also has more than 17 years of legal experience as an attorney in private practice, including as a partner in a law firm.
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Trustees   Experience, Qualifications and Skills
Henry R. Keizer   Henry R. Keizer brings over 40 years of executive, financial, operational, strategic and global expertise gained through his 35 year career at KPMG, a global professional services organization and by his service as a director to both publicly and privately held organizations. He has extensive experience with issues facing complex, global companies and expertise in financial reporting, accounting, auditing, risk management, and regulatory affairs for such companies. Mr. Keizer’s experience also includes service as an audit committee chair to both publicly and privately held organizations across numerous industries including professional services, property and casualty reinsurance, insurance, diversified financial services, banking, direct to consumer, business to business and technology. Mr. Keizer is a certified public accountant and also served on the board of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Mr. Keizer has been determined by the Audit Committee to be an audit committee financial expert, as such term is defined in the applicable Commission rules.
Cynthia A. Montgomery   Cynthia A. Montgomery has served for over 20 years on the boards of registered investment companies, most recently as a member of the boards of certain BlackRock-advised Funds and predecessor funds, including the legacy Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, L.P. (“MLIM”) funds. The Board benefits from Ms. Montgomery’s more than 20 years of academic experience as a professor at Harvard Business School where she taught courses on corporate strategy and corporate governance. Ms. Montgomery also has business management and corporate governance experience through her service on the corporate boards of a variety of public companies. She has also authored numerous articles and books on these topics.
Donald C. Opatrny   Donald C. Opatrny has more than 40 years of business, oversight and executive experience, including through his service as president, director and investment committee chair for academic and not-for-profit organizations, and his experience as a partner, managing director and advisory director at Goldman Sachs for 32 years. He also has investment management experience as a board member of Athena Capital Advisors LLC.
Mark Stalnecker   Mark Stalnecker has gained a wealth of experience in investing and asset management from his over 13 years of service as the Chief Investment Officer of the University of Delaware as well as from his various positions with First Union Corporation, including Senior Vice President and State Investment Director of First Investment Advisors. The Board benefits from his experience and perspective as the Chief Investment Officer of a university endowment and from the oversight experience he gained from service on various private and non-profit boards.
Kenneth L. Urish   Kenneth L. Urish has served for over 15 years on the boards of registered investment companies, most recently as a member of the boards of certain BlackRock-advised Funds and predecessor funds, including the legacy BlackRock funds. He has over 30 years of experience in public accounting. Mr. Urish has served as a managing member of an accounting and consulting firm. Mr. Urish has been determined by the Audit Committee to be an audit committee financial expert, as such term is defined in the applicable Commission rules.
Claire A. Walton   Claire A. Walton has over 25 years of experience in investment management. She has served as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Liberty Square Asset Management, LP from 1998 to 2015, an investment manager that specialized in long/short non-U.S. equity investments, and has been an owner and General Partner of Neon Liberty Capital Management, LLC since 2003, a firm focusing on long/short equities in global emerging and frontier markets. These positions have provided her with insight and perspective on the markets and the economy.
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Trustees   Experience, Qualifications and Skills
Interested Trustees    
Robert Fairbairn   Robert Fairbairn has more than 25 years of experience with BlackRock, Inc. and over 30 years of experience in finance and asset management. In particular, Mr. Fairbairn’s positions as Vice Chairman of BlackRock, Inc., Member of BlackRock’s Global Executive and Global Operating Committees and Co-Chair of BlackRock’s Human Capital Committee provide the Board with a wealth of practical business knowledge and leadership. In addition, Mr. Fairbairn has global investment management and oversight experience through his former positions as Global Head of BlackRock’s Retail and iShares® businesses, Head of BlackRock’s Global Client Group, Chairman of BlackRock’s international businesses and his previous oversight over BlackRock’s Strategic Partner Program and Strategic Product Management Group. Mr. Fairbairn also serves as a board member for the funds in the BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex.
John M. Perlowski   John M. Perlowski’s experience as Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2009, as the Head of BlackRock Global Accounting and Product Services since 2009, and as President and Chief Executive Officer of the BlackRock-advised Funds provides him with a strong understanding of the BlackRock-advised Funds, their operations, and the business and regulatory issues facing the BlackRock-advised Funds. Mr. Perlowski’s prior position as Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Global Product Group at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and his former service as Treasurer and Senior Vice President of the Goldman Sachs Mutual Funds and as Director of the Goldman Sachs Offshore Funds provides the Board with the benefit of his experience with the management practices of other financial companies. Mr. Perlowski also serves as a board member for the funds in the BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex.
  
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Biographical Information
Certain biographical and other information relating to the Trustees of the Trust is set forth below, including their address and year of birth, principal occupations for at least the last five years, length of time served, total number of registered investment companies and investment portfolios overseen in the BlackRock-advised Funds and any currently held public company and other investment company directorships.
Name
and Year of Birth1,2
  Position(s)
Held
(Length of Service)3
  Principal Occupation(s)
During Past Five Years
  Number of
BlackRock-
Advised
Registered
Investment
Companies
(“RICs”)
Consisting of
Investment
Portfolios
(“Portfolios”)
Overseen
  Public
Company
and Other
Investment
Company
Directorships
Held During
Past Five Years
Independent Trustees                
Mark Stalnecker
1951
  Chair of the Board
(Since 2019)
and Trustee
(Since 2015)
  Chief Investment Officer, University of Delaware from 1999 to 2013; Trustee and Chair of the Finance and Investment Committees, Winterthur Museum and Country Estate from 2005 to 2016; Member of the Investment Committee, Delaware Public Employees’ Retirement System since 2002; Member of the Investment Committee, Christiana Care Health System from 2009 to 2017; Member of the Investment Committee, Delaware Community Foundation from 2013 to 2014; Director and Chair of the Audit Committee, SEI Private Trust Co. from 2001 to 2014.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
Susan J. Carter
1956
  Trustee
(Since 2016)
  Trustee, Financial Accounting Foundation from 2017 to 2021; Advisory Board Member, Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at Tuck School of Business from 1997 to 2021; Director, Pacific Pension Institute from 2014 to 2018; Senior Advisor, CCI (investment adviser) in 2015; Chief Executive Officer, CCI from 2013 to 2014; President & Chief Executive Officer, CCI from 1997 to 2013; Advisory Board Member, Girls Who Invest from 2015 to 2018 and Board Member thereof from 2018 to 2022; Advisory Board Member, Bridges Fund Management since 2016; Practitioner Advisory Board Member, PCRI since 2017; Lecturer in the Practice of Management, Yale School of Management since 2019; Advisor to Finance Committee, Altman Foundation since 2020; Investment Committee Member, Tostan since 2021; Member of the President’s Counsel, Commonfund since 2023.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
Collette Chilton
1958
  Trustee
(Since 2015)
  Chief Investment Officer, Williams College from 2006 to 2023; Chief Investment Officer, Lucent Asset Management Corporation from 1998 to 2006; Director, Boys and Girls Club of Boston since 2017; Director, B1 Capital since 2018; Director, David and Lucile Packard Foundation since 2020.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
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Name
and Year of Birth1,2
  Position(s)
Held
(Length of Service)3
  Principal Occupation(s)
During Past Five Years
  Number of
BlackRock-
Advised
Registered
Investment
Companies
(“RICs”)
Consisting of
Investment
Portfolios
(“Portfolios”)
Overseen
  Public
Company
and Other
Investment
Company
Directorships
Held During
Past Five Years
Neil A. Cotty
1954
  Trustee
(Since 2016)
  Bank of America Corporation from 1996 to 2015, serving in various senior finance leadership roles, including Chief Accounting Officer from 2009 to 2015, Chief Financial Officer of Global Banking, Markets and Wealth Management from 2008 to 2009, Chief Accounting Officer from 2004 to 2008, Chief Financial Officer of Consumer Bank from 2003 to 2004, Chief Financial Officer of Global Corporate Investment Bank from 1999 to 2002.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
Lena G. Goldberg
1949
  Trustee
(Since 2019)
  Director, Pioneer Legal Institute since 2023; Director, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. from 2013 to 2021; Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School from 2008 to 2021; FMR LLC/Fidelity Investments (financial services) from 1996 to 2008, serving in various senior roles including Executive Vice President – Strategic Corporate Initiatives and Executive Vice President and General Counsel; Partner, Sullivan & Worcester LLP from 1985 to 1996 and Associate thereof from 1979 to 1985.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
Henry R. Keizer
1956
  Trustee
(Since 2019)
  Director, Park Indemnity Ltd. (captive insurer) from 2010 to 2022.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   GrafTech International Ltd. (materials manufacturing); Sealed Air Corp. (packaging); WABCO (commercial vehicle safety systems) from 2015 to 2020; Hertz Global Holdings (car rental) from 2015 to 2021
Cynthia A. Montgomery
1952
  Trustee
(Since 2007)
  Professor, Harvard Business School since 1989.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
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Name
and Year of Birth1,2
  Position(s)
Held
(Length of Service)3
  Principal Occupation(s)
During Past Five Years
  Number of
BlackRock-
Advised
Registered
Investment
Companies
(“RICs”)
Consisting of
Investment
Portfolios
(“Portfolios”)
Overseen
  Public
Company
and Other
Investment
Company
Directorships
Held During
Past Five Years
Donald C. Opatrny
1952
  Trustee
(Since 2019)
  Chair of the Board of Phoenix Art Museum since 2022 and Trustee thereof since 2018; Chair of the Investment Committee of The Arizona Community Foundation since 2022 and Trustee thereof since 2020; Director, Athena Capital Advisors LLC (investment management firm) from 2013 to 2020; Trustee, Vice Chair, Member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Investment Committee, Cornell University from 2004 to 2019; President and Trustee, the Center for the Arts, Jackson Hole from 2011 to 2018; Member of the Board and Investment Committee, University School from 2007 to 2018; Member of Affordable Housing Supply Board of Jackson, Wyoming since 2017; Member, Investment Funds Committee, State of Wyoming since 2017; Trustee, Artstor (a Mellon Foundation affiliate) from 2010 to 2015; Member of the Investment Committee, Mellon Foundation from 2009 to 2015; President, Trustee and Member of the Investment Committee, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum from 2007 to 2014; Trustee and Chair of the Investment Committee, Community Foundation of Jackson Hole since 2014.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
Kenneth L. Urish
1951
  Trustee
(Since 2007)
  Managing Partner, Urish Popeck & Co., LLC (certified public accountants and consultants) since 1976; Past-Chairman of the Professional Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Committee Member thereof since 2007; Member of External Advisory Board, The Pennsylvania State University Accounting Department since 2001, Emeritus since 2022; Principal, UP Strategic Wealth Investment Advisors, LLC since 2013; Trustee, The Holy Family Institute from 2001 to 2010; President and Trustee, Pittsburgh Catholic Publishing Associates from 2003 to 2008; Director, Inter-Tel from 2006 to 2007; Member, Advisory Board, ESG Competent Boards since 2020.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
Claire A. Walton
1957
  Trustee
(Since 2016)
  Advisory Board Member, Grossman School of Business at the University of Vermont since 2023; Advisory Board Member, Scientific Financial Systems since 2022; General Partner of Neon Liberty Capital Management, LLC since 2003; Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Liberty Square Asset Management, LP from 1998 to 2015; Director, Boston Hedge Fund Group from 2009 to 2018; Director, Massachusetts Council on Economic Education from 2013 to 2015; Director, Woodstock Ski Runners from 2013 to 2022.   28 RICs consisting of 169 Portfolios   None
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Name
and Year of Birth1,2
  Position(s)
Held
(Length of Service)3
  Principal Occupation(s)
During Past Five Years
  Number of
BlackRock-
Advised
Registered
Investment
Companies
(“RICs”)
Consisting of
Investment
Portfolios
(“Portfolios”)
Overseen
  Public
Company
and Other
Investment
Company
Directorships
Held During
Past Five Years
Interested Trustees4                
Robert Fairbairn
1965
  Trustee
(Since 2018)
  Vice Chairman of BlackRock, Inc. since 2019; Member of BlackRock’s Global Executive and Global Operating Committees; Co-Chair of BlackRock’s Human Capital Committee; Senior Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. from 2010 to 2019; oversaw BlackRock’s Strategic Partner Program and Strategic Product Management Group from 2012 to 2019; Member of the Board of Managers of BlackRock Investments, LLC from 2011 to 2018; Global Head of BlackRock’s Retail and iShares® businesses from 2012 to 2016.   97 RICs consisting of 272 Portfolios   None
John M. Perlowski5
1964
  Trustee
(Since 2015)
President and Chief Executive Officer
(Since 2010)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2009; Head of BlackRock Global Accounting and Product Services since 2009; Advisory Director of Family Resource Network (charitable foundation) since 2009.   99 RICs consisting of 274 Portfolios   None
  

1 The address of each Trustee is c/o BlackRock, Inc., 50 Hudson Yards, New York, New York 10001.
2 Independent Trustees serve until their resignation, retirement, removal or death, or until December 31 of the year in which they turn 75. The Board may determine to extend the terms of Independent Trustees on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate.
3 Following the combination of MLIM and BlackRock, Inc. in September 2006, the various legacy MLIM and legacy BlackRock fund boards were realigned and consolidated into three new fund boards in 2007. Furthermore, effective January 1, 2019, three BlackRock Fund Complexes were realigned and consolidated into two BlackRock Fund Complexes. As a result, although the chart shows the year that each Independent Trustee joined the Board, certain Independent Trustees first became members of the boards of other BlackRock-advised Funds, legacy MLIM funds or legacy BlackRock funds as follows: Cynthia A. Montgomery, 1994; Kenneth L. Urish, 1999; Lena G. Goldberg, 2016; Henry R. Keizer, 2016; Donald C. Opatrny, 2015.
4 Mr. Fairbairn and Mr. Perlowski are both “interested persons,” as defined in the Investment Company Act, of the Trust based on their positions with BlackRock, Inc. and its affiliates. Mr. Fairbairn and Mr. Perlowski are also board members of the BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex.
5 Mr. Perlowski is also a trustee of the BlackRock Credit Strategies Fund and BlackRock Private Investments Fund.
Certain biographical and other information relating to the officers of the Trust who are not Trustees is set forth below, including their address and year of birth, principal occupations for at least the last five years and length of time served.
Name
and Year of Birth1,2
  Position(s) Held
(Length of Service)
  Principal Occupation(s)
During Past Five Years
Officers Who Are Not Trustees        
Roland Villacorta
1971
  Vice President
(Since 2022)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2022; Head of Global Cash Management and Head of Securities Lending within BlackRock’s Portfolio Management Group since 2022; Member of BlackRock’s Global Operating Committee since 2022; Head of Portfolio Management in BlackRock’s Financial Markets Advisory Group within BlackRock Solutions from 2008 to 2015; Co-Head of BlackRock Solutions’ Portfolio Analytics Group; previously Mr. Villacorta was Co-Head of Fixed Income within BlackRock’s Risk & Quantitative Analysis Group.
Jennifer McGovern
1977
  Vice President
(Since 2014)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2016; Director of BlackRock, Inc. from 2011 to 2015; Head of Americas Product Development and Governance for BlackRock’s Global Product Group since 2019; Head of Product Structure and Oversight for BlackRock’s U.S. Wealth Advisory Group from 2013 to 2019.
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Name
and Year of Birth1,2
  Position(s) Held
(Length of Service)
  Principal Occupation(s)
During Past Five Years
Trent Walker
1974
  Chief
Financial
Officer
(Since 2021)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since September 2019; Executive Vice President of PIMCO from 2016 to 2019; Senior Vice President of PIMCO from 2008 to 2015; Treasurer from 2013 to 2019 and Assistant Treasurer from 2007 to 2017 of PIMCO Funds, PIMCO Variable Insurance Trust, PIMCO ETF Trust, PIMCO Equity Series, PIMCO Equity Series VIT, PIMCO Managed Accounts Trust, 2 PIMCO-sponsored interval funds and 21 PIMCO-sponsored closed-end funds.
Jay M. Fife
1970
  Treasurer
(Since 2007)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2007.
Aaron Wasserman
1974
  Chief Compliance Officer
(Since 2023)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2018; Chief Compliance Officer of the BlackRock-advised funds in the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex, the BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex and the iShares Complex since 2023; Deputy Chief Compliance Officer for the BlackRock-advised funds in the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex, the BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex and the iShares Complex from 2014 to 2023.
Lisa Belle
1968
  Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer
(Since 2019)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2019; Global Financial Crime Head for Asset and Wealth Management of JP Morgan from 2013 to 2019; Managing Director of RBS Securities from 2012 to 2013; Head of Financial Crimes for Barclays Wealth Americas from 2010 to 2012.
Janey Ahn
1975
  Secretary
(Since 2019)
  Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2018; Director of BlackRock, Inc. from 2009 to 2017.
  

1 The address of each Officer is c/o BlackRock, Inc., 50 Hudson Yards, New York, New York 10001.
2 Officers of the Trust serve at the pleasure of the Board.
Share Ownership
Information relating to each Trustee’s share ownership in the Fund and in all BlackRock-advised Funds that are currently overseen by the respective Trustee (“Supervised Funds”) as of December 31, 2022 is set forth in the chart below. Amounts shown may include shares as to which a Trustee has indirect beneficial ownership, such as through participation in certain family accounts, 529 college savings plan interests, or similar arrangements where the Trustee has beneficial economic interest but not a direct ownership interest.
Name   Dollar Range
of Equity
Securities in
the Fund
  Aggregate
Dollar Range
of Equity
Securities in
Supervised Funds
Independent Trustees:        
Susan J. Carter

  None   Over $100,000
Collette Chilton

  None   Over $100,000
Neil A. Cotty

  None   Over $100,000
Lena G. Goldberg

  None   Over $100,000
Henry R. Keizer

  None   Over $100,000
Cynthia A. Montgomery

  None   Over $100,000
Donald C. Opatrny

  None   Over $100,000
Mark Stalnecker

  None   Over $100,000
Kenneth L. Urish

  None   Over $100,000
Claire A. Walton

  None   Over $100,000
Interested Trustees:        
Robert Fairbairn

  None   Over $100,000
John M. Perlowski

  None   Over $100,000
  
As of November 3, 2023, the Trustees and officers of the Trust as a group directly or indirectly beneficially owned an aggregate of less than 1% of any class of the outstanding shares of the Fund. As of December 31, 2022, none of the Independent Trustees of the Trust or their immediate family members owned beneficially or of record any securities of the Fund’s investment adviser, sub-adviser, principal underwriter, or any person directly or indirectly controlling, controlled by, or under common control with such entities.
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Compensation of Trustees
Each Trustee who is an Independent Trustee is paid as compensation an annual retainer of $325,000 per year for his or her services as a board member of the BlackRock-advised Funds in the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex, including the Trust, and a $20,000 board meeting fee to be paid for each in-person board meeting attended (and may receive a board meeting fee for telephonic attendance at board meetings), for up to five board meetings held in a calendar year (compensation for meetings in excess of this number to be determined on a case-by-case basis), together with out-of-pocket expenses in accordance with a board policy on travel and other business expenses relating to attendance at meetings. The Chairs of the Audit Committee, Compliance Committee, Governance Committee and Performance Committee are paid as compensation an additional annual retainer of $45,000, respectively. The Chair of the Boards is paid an additional annual retainer of $150,000.
The following table sets forth the compensation the Trust paid to the Trustees on behalf of the Fund, for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023 and the aggregate compensation paid to them by all BlackRock-advised Funds for the calendar year ended December 31, 2022.
Name   Compensation
from the Fund
  Estimated
Annual
Benefits
upon
Retirement
  Aggregate
Compensation
from the Fund
and Other
BlackRock-
Advised Funds1
Independent Trustees:            
Susan J. Carter

  $1,949   None   $400,000
Collette Chilton

  $1,949   None   $400,000
Neil A. Cotty

  $1,949   None   $400,000
Lena G. Goldberg2

  $2,141   None   $445,000
Henry R. Keizer3

  $2,141   None   $445,000
Cynthia A. Montgomery4

  $2,141   None   $445,000
Donald C. Opatrny5

  $2,141   None   $445,000
Joseph P. Platt6

  $1,949   None   $400,000
Mark Stalnecker7

  $2,591   None   $550,000
Kenneth L. Urish

  $1,949   None   $400,000
Claire A. Walton

  $1,949   None   $400,000
Interested Trustees:            
Robert Fairbairn

  None   None   None
John M. Perlowski

  None   None   None
  

1 For the number of BlackRock-advised Funds from which each Trustee receives compensation, see “Biographical Information” beginning on page I-13.
2 Chair of the Compliance Committee.
3 Chair of the Audit Committee.
4 Chair of the Governance Committee.
5 Chair of the Performance Oversight Committee.
6 Mr. Platt retired as Trustee of the Trust effective December 31, 2022.
7 Chair of the Board and Chair of the Ad Hoc Topics Committee.
IV. Management, Advisory and Other Service Arrangements
Management Agreement
The Trust, on behalf of the Fund, has entered into an investment advisory agreement with BlackRock pursuant to which BlackRock is entitled to receive fees for the services it provides (the “Management Agreement”).
BlackRock has contractually agreed to waive the management fee with respect to any portion of the Fund’s assets estimated to be attributable to investments in other equity and fixed-income mutual funds and exchange-traded funds managed by BlackRock or its affiliates that have a contractual management fee, through June 30, 2025. In addition, BlackRock has contractually agreed to waive its management fees by the amount of investment advisory fees the Fund pays to BlackRock indirectly through its investment in money market funds managed by BlackRock or its affiliates, through June 30, 2025. The contractual agreements may be terminated upon 90 days’ notice by a majority of the Independent Trustees or by a vote of a majority of the outstanding voting securities of the Fund.
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BlackRock has contractually agreed to waive and/or reimburse fees or expenses in order to limit Total Annual Fund Operating Expenses After Fee Waivers and/or Expense Reimbursements (excluding Dividend Expense, Interest Expense, Acquired Fund Fees and Expenses and certain other Fund expenses (as defined in the Fund’s Prospectuses)) as a percentage of average daily net assets to 0.60% for Investor A Shares, 0.35% for Institutional Shares and 0.30% for Class K shares of average daily net assets through June 30, 2025. The contractual agreement may be terminated upon 90 days’ notice by a majority of the Independent trustees or by a vote of a majority of the outstanding voting securities of the Fund.
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, BlackRock may from time to time, in its sole discretion to the extent permitted by applicable law, appoint one or more sub-advisers, including, without limitation, affiliates of BlackRock, to perform investment advisory services with respect to the Fund. In addition, BlackRock may delegate certain of its investment advisory functions under the Management Agreement to one or more of its affiliates to the extent permitted by applicable law. BlackRock may terminate any or all sub-advisers or such delegation arrangements in its sole discretion at any time to the extent permitted by applicable law.
BlackRock has entered into a sub-advisory agreement with BlackRock International Limited (“BIL” or the “Sub-Adviser”), pursuant to which BlackRock pays the Sub-Adviser for providing services to BlackRock with respect to that portion of the Fund for which it acts as sub-adviser a monthly fee at an annual rate equal to a percentage of the management fee paid to BlackRock under the Management Agreement.
The table below sets forth information about the total management fees paid by the Trust, on behalf of the Fund, to BlackRock (which includes amounts paid by BlackRock to the Sub-Adviser), and the amount of any fee waivers or reimbursements, for the periods shown.
Fiscal Year Ended July 31,   Fees Paid
to BlackRock
  Fees Waived
by BlackRock
  Fees
Reimbursed
by BlackRock
2023

  $4,671,183   $2,043,489   $6,820
2022

  $8,142,647   $3,310,261   $1,981
2021

  $12,644,623   $5,012,783   $600,680
  
Administration Agreement
BlackRock serves as the Fund’s administrator (in such capacity, the “Administrator”) pursuant to an administration agreement (the “Administration Agreement”). The Administrator has agreed to maintain office facilities for the Fund; furnish the Fund with clerical, bookkeeping and administrative services; oversee the determination and publication of the Fund’s net asset value; oversee the preparation and filing of Federal, state and local income tax returns; prepare certain reports required by regulatory authorities; calculate various contractual expenses; determine the amount of dividends and distributions available for payment by the Fund to its shareholders; prepare and arrange for the printing of dividend notices to shareholders; provide Fund service providers with such information as is required to effect the payment of dividends and distributions; and serve as liaison with the Trust’s officers, independent accountants, legal counsel, custodian, accounting agent and transfer and dividend disbursing agent in establishing the accounting policies of the Fund and monitoring financial and shareholder accounting services. The Administrator may from time to time voluntarily waive administration fees with respect to the Fund and may voluntarily reimburse the Fund for expenses.
Under the Administration Agreement, the Trust, on behalf of the Fund, pays to the Administrator a fee, computed daily and payable monthly, at an aggregate annual rate of (i) 0.0425% of the first $500 million of the Fund’s average daily net assets, 0.040% of the next $500 million of the Fund’s average daily net assets, 0.0375% of the next $1 billion of the Fund’s average daily net assets, 0.035% of the next $2 billion of the Fund’s average daily net assets, 0.0325% of the next $9 billion of the Fund’s average daily net assets and 0.030% of the average daily net assets of the Fund in excess of $13 billion and (ii) 0.020% of average daily net assets allocated to each class of shares of the Fund.
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For the periods indicated, the Trust, on behalf of the Fund, paid the Administrator administration fees, and the Administrator waived administration fees and/or reimbursed expenses, as follows:
Fiscal Year Ended July 31,   Fees Paid
to the
Administrator
  Fees Waived
by the
Administrator
2023

  $1,129,559   $71,246
2022

  $1,939,821   $201,299
2021

  $2,991,588   $231,690
  
The Trust and its service providers may engage third party plan administrators who provide trustee, administrative and recordkeeping services for certain employee benefit, profit-sharing and retirement plans as agents for the Trust with respect to such plans, for the purpose of accepting orders for the purchase and redemption of shares of the Trust.
In addition, pursuant to a Shareholders’ Administrative Services Agreement, (the “Shareholders’ Administrative Services Agreement”) BlackRock provides certain shareholder liaison services in connection with the Trust’s investor service center. The Trust, on behalf of the Fund, reimburses BlackRock for its costs in maintaining the service center, which costs include, among other things, employee salaries, leasehold expenses, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
For the periods indicated, the Trust, on behalf of the Fund, reimbursed BlackRock for shareholder liaison services pursuant to the Shareholders’ Administrative Services Agreement as follows.
Fiscal Year Ended July 31,   Fees Paid to BlackRock   Fees Waived by BlackRock
2023

  $9,157   $883
2022

  $28,566   $2,060
2021

  $4,698   $321
  
Information Regarding the Portfolio Managers
Eric Hiatt, CFA and Bradford Glessner, CFA are the portfolio managers and are jointly and primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of the Fund.
Other Funds and Accounts Managed
The following table sets forth information about the funds and accounts other than the Fund for which the Fund’s portfolio managers are primarily responsible for the day-to-day portfolio management as of the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023.
  Number of Other Accounts Managed
and Assets by Account Type
Number of Other Accounts and Assets
for Which Advisory Fee is Performance-Based
Name of Portfolio Manager Other
Registered
Investment
Companies
Other Pooled
Investment
Vehicles
Other
Accounts
Other
Registered
Investment
Companies
Other Pooled
Investment
Vehicles
Other
Accounts
Bradford Glessner, CFA 6 14 123 0 0 0
  $7.98 Billion $15.05 Billion $50.39 Billion $0 $0 $0
Eric Hiatt, CFA, FRM 17 35 42 0 0 0
  $500.93 Billion $179.88 Billion $21.49 Billion $0 $0 $0
  
Portfolio Manager Compensation Overview
The discussion below describes the portfolio managers’ compensation as of July 31, 2023.
BlackRock’s financial arrangements with its portfolio managers, its competitive compensation and its career path emphasis at all levels reflect the value senior management places on key resources. Compensation may include a variety of components and may vary from year to year based on a number of factors. The principal components of compensation include a base salary, a performance-based discretionary bonus, participation in various benefits programs and one or more of the incentive compensation programs established by BlackRock.
Base Compensation. Generally, portfolio managers receive base compensation based on their position with the firm.
Discretionary Incentive Compensation. Generally, discretionary incentive compensation for the Cash Management portfolio managers is not formulaic and is a function of several components, including but not limited
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to: the performance of BlackRock, Inc., the performance of the portfolio manager’s group within BlackRock, the investment performance, including risk-adjusted returns, of the firm’s assets under management, the individual’s performance and contribution to the overall performance of these portfolios and BlackRock and the individual’s non-financial goals and objectives. Among other things, a subjective determination is made with respect to each portfolio manager’s compensation based on the performance of the Fund and other accounts managed by each portfolio manager. The performance of Messrs. Hiatt and Glessner is not measured against a specific benchmark.
Although the framework for compensation decision-making is tied to financial performance, significant discretion is used to determine individual compensation based on achievement of strategic and operating results and other considerations such as management and leadership capabilities.
In determining specific individual compensation amounts, a number of factors are considered including non-financial goals and objectives and overall financial and investment performance. These results are viewed in the aggregate without any specific weighting, and there is no direct correlation between any particular performance measure and the resulting annual incentive award.
Distribution of Discretionary Incentive Compensation. Discretionary incentive compensation is distributed to portfolio managers in a combination of cash, deferred BlackRock, Inc. stock awards, and/or deferred cash awards that notionally track the return of certain BlackRock investment products.
Portfolio managers receive their annual discretionary incentive compensation in the form of cash. Portfolio managers whose total compensation is above a specified threshold also receive deferred BlackRock, Inc. stock awards annually as part of their discretionary incentive compensation. Paying a portion of discretionary incentive compensation in the form of deferred BlackRock, Inc. stock puts compensation earned by a portfolio manager for a given year “at risk” based on BlackRock’s ability to sustain and improve its performance over future periods. In some cases, additional deferred BlackRock, Inc. stock may be granted to certain key employees as part of a long-term incentive award to aid in retention, align interests with long-term shareholders and motivate performance. Deferred BlackRock, Inc. stock awards are generally granted in the form of BlackRock, Inc. restricted stock units that vest pursuant to the terms of the applicable plan and, once vested, settle in BlackRock, Inc. common stock. The portfolio managers of the Fund have deferred BlackRock, Inc. stock awards.
For certain portfolio managers, a portion of the discretionary incentive compensation is also distributed in the form of deferred cash awards that notionally track the returns of select BlackRock investment products they manage, which provides direct alignment of portfolio manager discretionary incentive compensation with investment product results. Deferred cash awards vest ratably over a number of years and, once vested, settle in the form of cash. Only portfolio managers who manage specified products and whose total compensation is above a specified threshold are eligible to participate in the deferred cash award program.
Other Compensation Benefits. In addition to base salary and discretionary incentive compensation, portfolio managers may be eligible to receive or participate in one or more of the following:
Incentive Savings Plans — BlackRock, Inc. has created a variety of incentive savings plans in which BlackRock employees are eligible to participate, including a 401(k) plan, the BlackRock Retirement Savings Plan (RSP), and the BlackRock Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP). The employer contribution components of the RSP include a company match equal to 50% of the first 8% of eligible pay contributed to the plan capped at $5,000 per year, and a company retirement contribution equal to 3-5% of eligible compensation up to the Internal Revenue Service limit ($330,000 for 2023). The RSP offers a range of investment options, including registered investment companies and collective investment funds managed by the firm. BlackRock contributions follow the investment direction set by participants for their own contributions or, absent participant investment direction, are invested into a target date fund that corresponds to, or is closest to, the year in which the participant attains age 65. The ESPP allows for investment in BlackRock common stock at a 5% discount on the fair market value of the stock on the purchase date. Annual participation in the ESPP is limited to the purchase of 1,000 shares of common stock or a dollar value of $25,000 based on its fair market value on the purchase date. All of the eligible portfolio managers are eligible to participate in these plans.
Portfolio Manager Beneficial Holdings
As of July 31, 2023, the dollar range of securities beneficially owned by each portfolio manager in the Fund is shown below:
Portfolio Manager   Dollar Range of Equity Securities Beneficially Owned
Eric Hiatt, CFA

  None
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Portfolio Manager   Dollar Range of Equity Securities Beneficially Owned
Bradford Glessner, CFA

  None
  
Portfolio Manager Potential Material Conflicts of Interest
BlackRock has built a professional working environment, firm-wide compliance culture and compliance procedures and systems designed to protect against potential incentives that may favor one account over another. BlackRock has adopted policies and procedures that address the allocation of investment opportunities, execution of portfolio transactions, personal trading by employees and other potential conflicts of interest that are designed to ensure that all client accounts are treated equitably over time. Nevertheless, BlackRock furnishes investment management and advisory services to numerous clients in addition to the Fund, and BlackRock may, consistent with applicable law, make investment recommendations to other clients or accounts (including accounts which are hedge funds or have performance or higher fees paid to BlackRock, or in which portfolio managers have a personal interest in the receipt of such fees), which may be the same as or different from those made to the Fund. In addition, BlackRock, its affiliates and significant shareholders and any officer, director, shareholder or employee may or may not have an interest in the securities whose purchase and sale BlackRock recommends to the Fund. BlackRock, or any of its affiliates or significant shareholders, or any officer, director, shareholder, employee or any member of their families may take different actions than those recommended to the Fund by BlackRock with respect to the same securities. Moreover, BlackRock may refrain from rendering any advice or services concerning securities of companies of which any of BlackRock’s (or its affiliates’ or significant shareholders’) officers, directors or employees are directors or officers, or companies as to which BlackRock or any of its affiliates or significant shareholders or the officers, directors and employees of any of them has any substantial economic interest or possesses material non-public information. Certain portfolio managers also may manage accounts whose investment strategies may at times be opposed to the strategy utilized for the Fund. It should also be noted that Mr. Bradford may be managing hedge fund and/or long only accounts, or may be part of a team managing hedge fund and/or long only accounts, subject to incentive fees. Mr. Bradford may therefore be entitled to receive a portion of any incentive fees earned on such accounts.
As a fiduciary, BlackRock owes a duty of loyalty to its clients and must treat each client fairly. When BlackRock purchases or sells securities for more than one account, the trades must be allocated in a manner consistent with its fiduciary duties. BlackRock attempts to allocate investments in a fair and equitable manner among client accounts, with no account receiving preferential treatment. To this end, BlackRock has adopted policies that are intended to ensure reasonable efficiency in client transactions and provide BlackRock with sufficient flexibility to allocate investments in a manner that is consistent with the particular investment discipline and client base, as appropriate.
Accounting Services. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“JPM”) serves as the accounting services provider for the Fund. Among other services, JPM maintains records of purchases and sales of securities, receipts and disbursements of cash and other debits and credits; keeps accounting journals and ledgers; records capital share transactions; calculates expense caps, waivers and recoupments (if any); computes the Fund’s net income and capital gains and dividends payable; calculates and reports net asset value; works with independent pricing sources; reconciles securities and cash positions with the Fund’s custodian; prepares certain financial statements, notices and reports; and prepares certain tax reports. In connection with its accounting services, JPM also provides certain administrative services.
The table below shows the amounts paid by the Fund to JPM for accounting services for the past three fiscal years:
Fiscal Year Ended July 31,   Amount Paid to JPM
2023

  $68,906
2022

  $85,980
2021

  $120,777
  
Custodian
JPM, which has its principal offices at 383 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10179, and The Bank of New York Mellon, which has its principal offices at 240 Greenwich Street, New York, New York 10286, each serve as a custodian for the Fund. Among other responsibilities, JPM maintains a custody account or accounts in the name of the Fund, receives and delivers all assets for the Fund upon purchase and upon sale or maturity, and collects and receives all income and other payments and distributions on account of the assets of the Fund. Additionally, The
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Bank of New York Mellon maintains a custody account or accounts in the name of the Fund for the limited purpose of holding certain cash assets of the Fund.
Transfer Agent
BNY Mellon Investment Servicing (US) Inc., which has its principal place of business at 301 Bellevue Parkway, Wilmington, Delaware 19809, serves as the transfer agent and dividend disbursement agent for the Fund.
Credit Agreement
The Trust, on behalf of the Fund, along with certain other funds managed by the Manager and its affiliates (“Participating Funds”), is a party to a 364-day, $2.5 billion credit agreement with a group of lenders, which facility terminates on April 11, 2024, unless otherwise extended or renewed (the “Credit Agreement”). Excluding commitments designated for certain Participating Funds, the Participating Funds, including the Fund, can borrow up to an aggregate commitment amount of $1.75 billion at any time outstanding, subject to asset coverage and other limitations as specified in the Credit Agreement. The Fund may borrow under the Credit Agreement to meet shareholder redemptions and for other lawful purposes. However, the Fund may not borrow under the Credit Agreement for leverage. The Fund may borrow up to the maximum amount allowable under its current Prospectus and SAI, subject to various other legal, regulatory or contractual limits. Borrowing results in interest expense and other fees and expenses for the Fund which may impact the Fund’s net expenses. The costs of borrowing may reduce the Fund’s return. The Fund is charged its pro rata share of upfront fees and commitment fees on the aggregate commitment amount based on its net assets. If the Fund borrows pursuant to the Credit Agreement, the Fund is charged interest at a variable rate.
V. Information on Sales Charges and Distribution Related Expenses
Set forth below is information on sales charges received by the Fund, including the amounts paid to affiliates of the Manager (“affiliates”), if any, for the periods indicated. The Fund’s shares are not subject to sales charges (including any contingent deferred sales charges (“CDSCs”)) with respect to direct purchases of the Fund’s shares. However, a CDSC may be charged upon redemption if an investor purchases $1 million or more of Investor A Shares of a fund sponsored and advised by BlackRock or its affiliates where no initial sales charge was paid at the time of purchase of such fund (an “Investor A Load-Waived BlackRock Fund”) (lesser amounts may apply depending on the Investor A Load-Waived BlackRock Fund) and exchanges such shares for Investor A Shares of the Fund and subsequently redeems such shares within 18 months after the investor initially acquired such Investor A Shares. BlackRock Investments, LLC (“BRIL” or the “Distributor”) acts as the Fund’s distributor (a shareholder holding period may apply depending on the Investor A Load-Waived BlackRock Fund).
Investor A Shares Sales Charge Information
Fiscal Year Ended   Investor A Shares CDSCs Received on Redemption of Load-Waived Shares
July 31, 2023

  $4,120
July 31, 2022

  $30,008
July 31, 2021

  $42,482
  
Pursuant to the Trust’s Distribution and Service Plan (the “Plan”), the Trust may pay BRIL and/or the Manager or any other affiliate or significant shareholder of the Manager fees for providing shareholder servicing and distribution-related activities.
The table below provides information for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023 about the 12b-1 fees the Fund paid to BRIL under the Plan. A portion of the fees collected by BRIL were paid to affiliates for providing shareholder servicing activities for Investor A Shares.
Class Name   Paid to BRIL
Investor A Shares

  $1,879,823
  
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VI. Computation of Offering Price Per Share
An illustration of the computation of the public offering price of the Investor A Shares of the Fund based on the value of the Fund’s Investor A Shares’ net assets and the number of Investor A Shares outstanding on July 31, 2023 is set forth below:
  Investor A Shares
Net Assets

$605,941,641
Number of Shares Outstanding

60,640,019
Net Asset Value Per Share (net assets divided by number of shares outstanding)

$9.99
Offering Price

$9.99
  
The offering price for the Fund’s share classes is equal to the share class’ net asset value computed by dividing the value of the share class’ net assets by the number of shares outstanding. For more information on the purchase and valuation of shares, see “Purchase of Shares” and “Pricing of Shares” in Part II of this SAI.
VII. Portfolio Transactions and Brokerage
See “Portfolio Transactions and Brokerage” in Part II of this SAI for more information.
Information about the brokerage commissions paid by the Fund, including commissions paid to affiliates, during the periods indicated is set forth in the following table:
Fiscal Year Ended July 31,   Aggregate Brokerage
Commissions Paid
  Brokerage Commissions
Paid to Affiliates
2023

  $0   $0
2022

  $0   $0
2021

  $0   $0
  
The following table shows the dollar amount of brokerage commissions paid to brokers for providing Section 28(e) research/brokerage services under Section 28(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the approximate dollar amount of the transactions involved for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023. The provision of Section 28(e) research/brokerage services was not necessarily a factor in the placement of all brokerage business with such brokers.
Amount of Commissions
Paid to Brokers for
Providing 28(e) Eligible
Research Services
  Amount of Brokerage
Transactions Involved
$0   $0
  
The value of the Fund’s aggregate holdings of the securities of its regular broker or dealers (as defined in Rule 10b-1 under the Investment Company Act) or their parents, if any portion of such holdings were purchased during the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023, is as follows:
Regular Broker/Dealer   Debt (D)/Equity (E)   Aggregate Holdings (000s)
Truist Securities, Inc.

  D   $19,869
Mizuho Securities USA LLC

  D   $17,978
BofA Securities, Inc.

  D   $15,895
J.P. Morgan Securities LLC

  D   $11,056
Barclays Capital, Inc.

  D   $4,590
Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

  D   $4,003
Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC

  D   $3,934
MUFG Securities Americas Inc.

  D   $3,407
RBC Capital Markets, LLC

  D   $2,178
Citigroup Global Markets Inc.

  D   $1,999
  
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Securities Lending
The Fund conducts its securities lending pursuant to an exemptive order from the Commission permitting it to lend portfolio securities to borrowers affiliated with the Fund and to retain an affiliate of the Fund as lending agent. To the extent that the Fund engages in securities lending, BlackRock Investment Management, LLC (“BIM”), an affiliate of the Manager, acts as securities lending agent for the Fund, subject to the overall supervision of the Manager. BIM administers the lending program in accordance with guidelines approved by the Board.
To the extent the Fund engages in securities lending, the Fund retains a portion of securities lending income and remits a remaining portion to BIM as compensation for its services as securities lending agent. Securities lending income is equal to the total of income earned from the reinvestment of cash collateral (and excludes collateral investment expenses as defined below), and any fees or other payments to and from borrowers of securities. As securities lending agent, BIM bears all operational costs directly related to securities lending. The Fund is responsible for expenses in connection with the investment of cash collateral received for securities on loan (the “collateral investment expenses”). The cash collateral is invested in a private investment company managed by the Manager or its affiliates. However, BIM has agreed to cap the collateral investment expenses of the private investment company to an annual rate of 0.04%. In addition, in accordance with the exemptive order, the investment adviser to the private investment company will not charge any advisory fees with respect to shares purchased by the Fund. Such shares also will not be subject to a sales load, distribution fee or service fee. If the private investment company’s weekly liquid assets fall below 30% of its total assets, BIM, as managing member of the private investment company, is permitted at any time, if it determines it to be in the best interests of the private investment company, to impose a liquidity fee of up to 2% of the value of units withdrawn or impose a redemption gate that temporarily suspends the right of withdrawal out of the private investment company. In addition, if the private investment company’s weekly liquid assets fall below 10% of its total assets at the end of any business day, the private investment company will impose a liquidity fee in the default amount of 1% of the amount withdrawn, generally effective as of the next business day, unless BIM determines that a higher (not to exceed 2%) or lower fee level or not imposing a liquidity fee is in the best interests of the private investment company. The shares of the private investment company purchased by the Fund would be subject to any such liquidity fee or redemption gate imposed.
Under the securities lending program, the Fund is categorized into a specific asset class. The determination of the Fund’s asset class category (fixed-income, domestic equity, international equity, or fund of funds), each of which may be subject to a different fee arrangement, is based on a methodology agreed to between the Trust and BIM.
Pursuant to the current securities lending agreement: (i) if the Fund were to engage in securities lending, the Fund retains 82% of securities lending income (which excludes collateral investment expenses); and (ii) this amount can never be less than 70% of the sum of securities lending income plus collateral investment expenses
In addition, commencing the business day following the date that the aggregate securities lending income earned across the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex in a calendar year exceeds a specified threshold, the Fund, pursuant to the current securities lending agreement, will receive for the remainder of that calendar year securities lending income as follows: (i) if the Fund were to engage in securities lending, 85% of securities lending income (which excludes collateral investment expenses); and (ii) this amount can never be less than 70% of the sum of securities lending income plus collateral investment expenses.
The Fund had no income and fees/compensation related to its securities lending activities during its most recent fiscal year ended July 31, 2023.
VIII. Additional Information
Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, with offices located at Two Commerce Square, 2001 Market Street, Suite 1800, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103, serves as the Fund’s independent registered public accounting firm.
Counsel. Sidley Austin LLP, with offices at 787 Seventh Avenue, New York, New York 10019, serves as the Fund’s counsel.
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Principal Shareholders
To the knowledge of the Trust, the following entities owned of record or beneficially 5% or more of a class of the Fund’s shares as of November 2, 2023:
Name   Address   Percentage   Class
J P Morgan Securities LLC   4 Chase Metrotech Center
Brooklyn, New York 11245
  26.21%   Investor A Shares
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC   1 New York Plaza
Floor 12
New York, NY 10004-1901
  22.96%   Investor A Shares
American Enterprise Investment SVC   707 2nd Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55402-2405
  11.59%   Investor A Shares
Pershing LLC   1 Pershing Plaza
Jersey City, NJ 07399-0001
  10.74%   Investor A Shares
LPL Financial   4707 Executive Drive
San Diego, CA 92121-3091
  9.34%   Investor A Shares
National Financial Services LLC   499 Washington Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07310
  5.40%   Investor A Shares
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC   1 New York Plaza
Floor 12
New York, NY 10004-1901
  37.02%   Institutional Shares
Pershing LLC   1 Pershing Plaza
Jersey City, NJ 07399-0001
  15.35%   Institutional Shares
National Financial Services LLC   499 Washington Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07310
  10.38%   Institutional Shares
American Enterprise Investment SVC   707 2nd Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55402-2405
  8.94%   Institutional Shares
UBS Financial Services, Inc.   1000 Harbor Boulevard
Weehawken, NJ 07086
  7.00%   Institutional Shares
LPL Financial   4707 Executive Drive
San Diego, CA 92121-3091
  6.76%   Institutional Shares
Nabank & Co.   P.O. Box 2180
Tulsa, OK 74101
  29.59%   Class K Shares
Guilford Speciality Group, Inc.   185 Asylum Street
7th Floor
Hartford, CT 06103-1505
  22.07%   Class K Shares
National Financial Services LLC   499 Washington Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07310
  21.14%   Class K Shares
Pershing LLC   1 Pershing Plaza
Jersey City, NJ 07399-0001
  12.35%   Class K Shares
J P Morgan Securities LLC   4 Chase Metrotech Center
Brooklyn, New York 11245
  6.19%   Class K Shares
  
For purposes of the Investment Company Act, any person who owns directly or through one or more controlled companies more than 25% of the voting securities of a company is presumed to “control” such company. Accordingly, to the extent that an interestholder is identified in the foregoing tables as the beneficial holder of more than 25% of the Fund or as the holder of record of more than 25% of the Fund and has voting and/or investment powers, such interestholder may be presumed to control the Fund. Any interestholder that is a majority interestholder in the Fund may be able to take actions with respect to the Fund (e.g., approve an advisory agreement) without the approval of other investors in the Fund.
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The Trust
The Trust was organized as a Massachusetts business trust on December 22, 1988, and is registered under the Investment Company Act as an open end management investment company. The Fund is diversified. Effective January 31, 1998, the Trust changed its name from Compass Capital FundsSM to BlackRock FundsSM. The Trust is authorized to issue an unlimited number of shares of beneficial interest with a par value of $0.001 per share, which may be divided into different series and classes.
Under Massachusetts law, shareholders of a business trust may, under certain circumstances, be held personally liable as partners for the obligations of the trust. However, the Trust’s Declaration of Trust provides that shareholders shall not be subject to any personal liability in connection with the assets of the Trust for the acts or obligations of the Trust, and that every note, bond, contract, order or other undertaking made by the Trust shall contain a provision to the effect that the shareholders are not personally liable thereunder. The Declaration of Trust provides for indemnification out of Trust property of any shareholder held personally liable solely by reason of his being or having been a shareholder and not because of such shareholder’s acts or omissions or some other reason. The Declaration of Trust also provides that the Trust shall, upon request, assume the defense of any claim made against any shareholder for any act or obligation of the Trust, and shall satisfy any judgment thereon.
The Declaration of Trust further provides that all persons having any claim against the Trustees or Trust shall look solely to the Trust property for payment; that no Trustee of the Trust shall be personally liable for or on account of any contract, debt, tort, claim, damage, judgment or decree arising out of or connected with the administration or preservation of the Trust property or the conduct of any business of the Trust; and that no Trustee shall be personally liable to any person for any action or failure to act except by reason of such Trustee’s own bad faith, willful misfeasance, gross negligence or reckless disregard of his duties as a Trustee. With the exception stated, the Declaration of Trust provides that a Trustee is entitled to be indemnified against all liabilities and expenses reasonably incurred by such Trustee in connection with the defense or disposition of any proceeding in which he may be involved or with which he may be threatened by reason of his being or having been a Trustee, and that the Trust will indemnify officers, representatives and employees of the Trust to the same extent that trustees are entitled to indemnification.
IX. Financial Statements
The audited financial statements, financial highlights and notes thereto in the Fund’s Annual Report to Shareholders for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2023 (the “2023 Annual Report”) are incorporated in this SAI by reference. No other parts of the 2023 Annual Report are incorporated by reference herein. The financial statements and financial highlights included in the 2023 Annual Report have been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The report of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is incorporated herein by reference. Such financial statements and financial highlights have been incorporated herein in reliance upon such report given upon PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s authority as experts in accounting and auditing. Additional copies of the 2023 Annual Report may be obtained at no charge by telephoning the Distributor at the telephone number appearing on the front page of this SAI.
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PART II
Throughout this Statement of Additional Information (“SAI”), each BlackRock-advised fund may be referred to as a “Fund” or collectively with others as the “Funds.” Certain Funds may also be referred to as “Municipal Funds” if they invest certain of their assets in municipal investments described below.
Each Fund is organized either as a Maryland corporation, a Massachusetts business trust or a Delaware statutory trust. In each jurisdiction, nomenclature varies. For ease and clarity of presentation, shares of common stock and shares of beneficial interest are referred to herein as “shares” or “Common Stock,” holders of shares of Common Stock are referred to as “shareholders,” the trustees or directors of each Fund are referred to as “Directors,” the boards of trustees/directors of each Fund are referred to as the “Board of Directors” or the “Board,” BlackRock Advisors, LLC, BlackRock Fund Advisors or their respective affiliates is the investment adviser or manager of each Fund and is referred to herein as the “Manager” or “BlackRock,” and the investment advisory agreement or management agreement applicable to each Fund is referred to as the “Management Agreement.” Each Fund’s Articles of Incorporation or Declaration of Trust, together with all amendments thereto, is referred to as its “charter.” The Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, is referred to herein as the “Investment Company Act.” The Securities Act of 1933, as amended, is referred to herein as the “Securities Act.” The Securities and Exchange Commission is referred to herein as the “Commission” or the “SEC.”
Certain Funds are “feeder” funds (each, a “Feeder Fund”) that invest all or a portion of their assets in a corresponding “master” portfolio (each, a “Master Portfolio”) of a master limited liability company (each, a “Master LLC”), a mutual fund that has the same objective and strategies as the Feeder Fund. All investments are generally made at the level of the Master Portfolio. This structure is sometimes called a “master/feeder” structure. A Feeder Fund’s investment results will correspond directly to the investment results of the underlying Master Portfolio in which it invests. For simplicity, this SAI uses the term “Fund” to include both a Feeder Fund and its Master Portfolio.
In addition to containing information about the Funds, Part II of this SAI contains general information about all funds in the BlackRock-advised fund complex. Certain information contained herein may not be relevant to a particular Fund.
Investment Risks and Considerations
Set forth below are descriptions of some of the types of investments and investment strategies that one or more of the Funds may use, and the risks and considerations associated with those investments and investment strategies. Please see each Fund’s prospectuses (the “Prospectus”) and the “Investment Objective and Policies” or “Investment Objectives and Policies” section, as applicable, of Part I of this SAI for further information on each Fund’s investment policies and risks. Information contained in this section about the risks and considerations associated with a Fund’s investments and/or investment strategies applies only to those Funds specifically identified in Part I of this SAI as making each type of investment or using each investment strategy (each, a “Covered Fund”). Information that does not apply to a Covered Fund does not form a part of that Covered Fund’s SAI and should not be relied on by investors in that Covered Fund. Only information that is clearly identified as applicable to a Covered Fund is considered to form a part of that Covered Fund’s SAI.
144A Securities. A Fund may purchase securities that can be offered and sold only to “qualified institutional buyers” pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act. See “Restricted Securities” below.
Asset-Backed Securities. Asset-backed securities are securities backed by home equity loans, installment sale contracts, credit card receivables or other assets. Asset-backed securities are “pass-through” securities, meaning that principal and interest payments — net of expenses — made by the borrower on the underlying assets (such as credit card receivables) are passed through to a Fund. The value of asset-backed securities, like that of traditional fixed-income securities, typically increases when interest rates fall and decreases when interest rates rise. However, asset-backed securities differ from traditional fixed-income securities because of their potential for prepayment. The price paid by a Fund for its asset-backed securities, the yield the Fund expects to receive from such securities and the average life of the securities are based on a number of factors, including the anticipated rate of prepayment of the underlying assets. In a period of declining interest rates, borrowers may prepay the underlying assets more quickly than anticipated, thereby reducing the yield to maturity and the average life of the asset-backed securities. Moreover, when a Fund reinvests the proceeds of a prepayment in these circumstances, it will likely receive a rate of interest that is lower than the rate on the security that was prepaid. To the extent that a Fund purchases asset-backed securities at a premium, prepayments may result in a loss to the extent of the premium paid. If a Fund buys such securities at a discount, both scheduled payments and unscheduled prepayments will increase current and total returns and unscheduled prepayments will also accelerate the recognition of income which, when distributed to
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shareholders, will be taxable as ordinary income. In a period of rising interest rates, prepayments of the underlying assets may occur at a slower than expected rate, creating maturity extension risk. This particular risk may effectively change a security that was considered short- or intermediate-term at the time of purchase into a longer term security. Since the value of longer-term securities generally fluctuates more widely in response to changes in interest rates than does the value of shorter-term securities, maturity extension risk could increase the volatility of the Fund. When interest rates decline, the value of an asset-backed security with prepayment features may not increase as much as that of other fixed-income securities, and, as noted above, changes in market rates of interest may accelerate or retard prepayments and thus affect maturities.
Asset-Based Securities. Certain Funds may invest in debt, preferred or convertible securities, the principal amount, redemption terms or conversion terms of which are related to the market price of some natural resource asset such as gold bullion. These securities are referred to as “asset-based securities.” A Fund will purchase only asset-based securities that are rated, or are issued by issuers that have outstanding debt obligations rated, investment grade (for example, AAA, AA, A or BBB by S&P Global Ratings (“S&P”) or Fitch Ratings (“Fitch”), or Baa by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. (“Moody’s”) or commercial paper rated A-1 by S&P or Prime-1 by Moody’s) or by issuers that the Manager has determined to be of similar creditworthiness. Obligations ranked in the fourth highest rating category, while considered “investment grade,” may have certain speculative characteristics and may be more likely to be downgraded than securities rated in the three highest rating categories. If an asset-based security is backed by a bank letter of credit or other similar facility, the Manager may take such backing into account in determining the creditworthiness of the issuer. While the market prices for an asset-based security and the related natural resource asset generally are expected to move in the same direction, there may not be perfect correlation in the two price movements. Asset-based securities may not be secured by a security interest in or claim on the underlying natural resource asset. The asset-based securities in which a Fund may invest may bear interest or pay preferred dividends at below market (or even relatively nominal) rates. Certain asset-based securities may be payable at maturity in cash at the stated principal amount or, at the option of the holder, directly in a stated amount of the asset to which it is related. In such instance, because no Fund presently intends to invest directly in natural resource assets, a Fund would sell the asset-based security in the secondary market, to the extent one exists, prior to maturity if the value of the stated amount of the asset exceeds the stated principal amount and thereby realize the appreciation in the underlying asset.
Precious Metal-Related Securities. A Fund may invest in the equity and other securities of companies that explore for, extract, process or deal in precious metals (e.g., gold, silver and platinum), and in asset-based securities indexed to the value of such metals. Such securities may be purchased when they are believed to be attractively priced in relation to the value of a company’s precious metal-related assets or when the values of precious metals are expected to benefit from inflationary pressure or other economic, political or financial uncertainty or instability. Based on historical experience, during periods of economic or financial instability the securities of companies involved in precious metals may be subject to extreme price fluctuations, reflecting the high volatility of precious metal prices during such periods. In addition, the instability of precious metal prices may result in volatile earnings of precious metal-related companies, which may, in turn, adversely affect the financial condition of such companies. The major producers of gold include the Republic of South Africa, Russia, Canada, the United States, Brazil and Australia. Sales of gold by Russia are largely unpredictable and often relate to political and economic considerations rather than to market forces. Economic, financial, social and political factors within South Africa may significantly affect South African gold production.
Borrowing and Leverage. Each Fund may borrow as a temporary measure for extraordinary or emergency purposes, including to meet redemptions or to settle securities transactions. Certain Funds will not purchase securities at any time when borrowings exceed 5% of their total assets, except (a) to honor prior commitments or (b) to exercise subscription rights when outstanding borrowings have been obtained exclusively for settlements of other securities transactions.
Certain Funds may also borrow in order to make investments, to the extent disclosed in such Fund’s Prospectus. The purchase of securities while borrowings are outstanding will have the effect of leveraging the Fund. Such leveraging increases the Fund’s exposure to capital risk, and borrowed funds are subject to interest costs that will reduce net income. The use of leverage by a Fund creates an opportunity for greater total return, but, at the same time, creates special risks. For example, leveraging may exaggerate changes in the net asset value (“NAV”) of Fund shares and in the yield on the Fund’s portfolio. Although the principal of such borrowings will be fixed, the Fund’s assets may change in value during the time the borrowings are outstanding. Borrowings will create interest expenses for the Fund that can exceed the income from the assets purchased with the borrowings. To the extent the income or capital appreciation derived from securities purchased with borrowed funds exceeds the interest the Fund will have to pay on the borrowings, the Fund’s return will be greater than if leverage had not been used. Conversely, if the income
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or capital appreciation from the securities purchased with such borrowed funds is not sufficient to cover the cost of borrowing, the return to the Fund will be less than if leverage had not been used and, therefore, the amount available for distribution to shareholders as dividends will be reduced. In the latter case, the Manager in its best judgment nevertheless may determine to maintain the Fund’s leveraged position if it expects that the benefits to the Fund’s shareholders of maintaining the leveraged position will outweigh the current reduced return.
Certain types of borrowings by a Fund may result in the Fund being subject to covenants in credit agreements relating to asset coverage, portfolio composition requirements and other matters. It is not anticipated that observance of such covenants would impede the Manager from managing a Fund’s portfolio in accordance with the Fund’s investment objectives and policies. However, a breach of any such covenants not cured within the specified cure period may result in acceleration of outstanding indebtedness and require the Fund to dispose of portfolio investments at a time when it may be disadvantageous to do so.
Each Fund may at times borrow from affiliates of the Manager, provided that the terms of such borrowings are no less favorable than those available from comparable sources of funds in the marketplace.
To the extent permitted by a Fund’s investment policies and restrictions and subject to the conditions of an exemptive order issued by the SEC, as described below under “Investment Risks and Considerations—Interfund Lending Program,” such Fund may borrow for temporary purposes through the Interfund Lending Program (as defined below).
Cash Flows; Expenses. The ability of each Fund to satisfy its investment objective depends to some extent on the Manager’s ability to manage cash flow (primarily from purchases and redemptions and distributions from the Fund’s investments). The Manager will make investment changes to a Fund’s portfolio to accommodate cash flow while continuing to seek to replicate the total return of the Fund’s target index. Investors should also be aware that the investment performance of each index is a hypothetical number which does not take into account brokerage commissions and other transaction costs, custody and other costs of investing, and any incremental operating costs (e.g., transfer agency and accounting costs) that will be borne by the Funds. Finally, since each Fund seeks to replicate the total return of its target index, the Manager generally will not attempt to judge the merits of any particular security as an investment.
Cash Management. Generally, the Manager will employ futures and options on futures to provide liquidity necessary to meet anticipated redemptions or for day-to-day operating purposes. However, if considered appropriate in the opinion of the Manager, a portion of a Fund’s assets may be invested in certain types of instruments with remaining maturities of 397 days or less for liquidity purposes. Such instruments would consist of: (i) obligations of the U.S. Government, its agencies, instrumentalities, authorities or political subdivisions (“U.S. Government Securities”); (ii) other fixed-income securities rated Aa or higher by Moody’s or AA or higher by S&P or, if unrated, of comparable quality in the opinion of the Manager; (iii) commercial paper; (iv) bank obligations, including negotiable certificates of deposit, time deposits and bankers’ acceptances; and (v) repurchase agreements. At the time the Fund invests in commercial paper, bank obligations or repurchase agreements, the issuer or the issuer’s parent must have outstanding debt rated Aa or higher by Moody’s or AA or higher by S&P or outstanding commercial paper, bank obligations or other short-term obligations rated Prime-1 by Moody’s or A-1 by S&P; or, if no such ratings are available, the instrument must be of comparable quality in the opinion of the Manager. For more information on money market instruments, see “Money Market Securities” below.
Collateralized Debt Obligations. Certain Funds may invest in collateralized debt obligations (“CDOs”), which include collateralized bond obligations (“CBOs”), collateralized loan obligations (“CLOs”) and other similarly structured securities. CDOs are types of asset-backed securities. A CBO is ordinarily issued by a trust or other special purpose entity (“SPE”) and is typically backed by a diversified pool of fixed-income securities (which may include high risk, below investment grade securities) held by such issuer. A CLO is ordinarily issued by a trust or other SPE and is typically collateralized by a pool of loans, which may include, among others, domestic and non-U.S. senior secured loans, senior unsecured loans, and subordinate corporate loans, including loans that may be rated below investment grade or equivalent unrated loans, held by such issuer. Investments in a CLO organized outside of the United States may not be deemed to be foreign securities if the CLO is collateralized by a pool of loans, a substantial portion of which are U.S. loans. Although certain CDOs may benefit from credit enhancement in the form of a senior-subordinate structure, over-collateralization or bond insurance, such enhancement may not always be present, and may fail to protect a Fund against the risk of loss on default of the collateral. Certain CDO issuers may use derivatives contracts to create “synthetic” exposure to assets rather than holding such assets directly, which entails the risks of derivative instruments described elsewhere in this SAI. CDOs may charge management fees and administrative expenses, which are in addition to those of a Fund.
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For both CBOs and CLOs, the cash flows from the SPE are split into two or more portions, called tranches, varying in risk and yield. The riskiest portion is the “equity” tranche, which bears the first loss from defaults from the bonds or loans in the SPE and serves to protect the other, more senior tranches from default (though such protection is not complete). Since it is partially protected from defaults, a senior tranche from a CBO or CLO typically has higher ratings and lower yields than its underlying securities, and may be rated investment grade. Despite the protection from the equity tranche, CBO or CLO tranches can experience substantial losses due to actual defaults, downgrades of the underlying collateral by rating agencies, forced liquidation of the collateral pool due to a failure of coverage tests, increased sensitivity to defaults due to collateral default and disappearance of protecting tranches, market anticipation of defaults as well as investor aversion to CBO or CLO securities as a class. Interest on certain tranches of a CDO may be paid in kind or deferred and capitalized (paid in the form of obligations of the same type rather than cash), which involves continued exposure to default risk with respect to such payments.
The risks of an investment in a CDO depend largely on the type of the collateral securities and the class of the CDO in which a Fund invests. Normally, CBOs, CLOs and other CDOs are privately offered and sold, and thus are not registered under the securities laws. However, an active dealer market may exist for CDOs, allowing a CDO to qualify for Rule 144A transactions. In addition to the normal risks associated with fixed-income securities and asset-backed securities generally discussed elsewhere in this SAI, CDOs carry additional risks including, but not limited to: (i) the possibility that distributions from collateral securities will not be adequate to make interest or other payments; (ii) the risk that the collateral may default or decline in value or be downgraded, if rated by a nationally recognized statistical rating organization (“NRSRO”); (iii) a Fund may invest in tranches of CDOs that are subordinate to other tranches; (iv) the structure and complexity of the transaction and the legal documents could lead to disputes among investors regarding the characterization of proceeds; (v) the investment return achieved by the Fund could be significantly different than those predicted by financial models; (vi) the lack of a readily available secondary market for CDOs; (vii) the risk of forced “fire sale” liquidation due to technical defaults such as coverage test failures; and (viii) the CDO’s manager may perform poorly.
Commercial Paper. Certain Funds may purchase commercial paper. Commercial paper purchasable by each Fund includes “Section 4(a)(2) paper,” a term that includes debt obligations issued in reliance on the “private placement” exemption from registration afforded by Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act. Section 4(a)(2) paper is restricted as to disposition under the Federal securities laws, and is frequently sold (and resold) to institutional investors such as the Fund through or with the assistance of investment dealers who make a market in the Section 4(a)(2) paper, thereby providing liquidity. Certain transactions in Section 4(a)(2) paper may qualify for the registration exemption provided in Rule 144A under the Securities Act. Most Funds can purchase commercial paper rated (at the time of purchase) “A-1” by S&P or “Prime-1” by Moody’s or when deemed advisable by a Fund’s Manager or sub-adviser, “high quality” issues rated “A-2”, “Prime-2” or “F-2” by S&P, Moody’s or Fitch, respectively.
Commodity-Linked Derivative Instruments and Hybrid Instruments. Certain Funds seek to gain exposure to the commodities markets primarily through investments in hybrid instruments. Hybrid instruments are either equity or debt derivative securities with one or more commodity-dependent components that have payment features similar to a commodity futures contract, a commodity option contract, or a combination of both. Therefore, these instruments are “commodity-linked.” They are considered “hybrid” instruments because they have both commodity-like and security-like characteristics. Hybrid instruments are derivative instruments because at least part of their value is derived from the value of an underlying commodity, futures contract, index or other readily measurable economic variable.
The prices of commodity-linked derivative instruments may move in different directions than investments in traditional equity and debt securities when the value of those traditional securities is declining due to adverse economic conditions. As an example, during periods of rising inflation, debt securities have historically tended to decline in value due to the general increase in prevailing interest rates. Conversely, during those same periods of rising inflation, the prices of certain commodities, such as oil and metals, have historically tended to increase. Of course, there cannot be any guarantee that these investments will perform in that manner in the future, and at certain times the price movements of commodity-linked instruments have been parallel to those of debt and equity securities. Commodities have historically tended to increase and decrease in value during different parts of the business cycle than financial assets. Nevertheless, at various times, commodities prices may move in tandem with the prices of financial assets and thus may not provide overall portfolio diversification benefits. Under favorable economic conditions, the Fund’s investments may be expected to under-perform an investment in traditional securities. Over the long term, the returns on the Fund’s investments are expected to exhibit low or negative correlation with stocks and bonds.
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Qualifying Hybrid Instruments. Certain Funds may invest in hybrid instruments that qualify for exclusion from regulation under the Commodity Exchange Act and the regulations adopted thereunder. A hybrid instrument that qualifies for this exclusion from regulation must be “predominantly a security.” A hybrid instrument is considered to be predominantly a security if (a) the issuer of the hybrid instrument receives payment in full of the purchase price of the hybrid instrument, substantially contemporaneously with delivery of the hybrid instrument; (b) the purchaser or holder of the hybrid instrument is not required to make any payment to the issuer in addition to the purchase price paid under subparagraph (a), whether as margin, settlement payment, or otherwise, during the life of the hybrid instrument or at maturity; (c) the issuer of the hybrid instrument is not subject by the terms of the instrument to mark-to-market margining requirements; and (d) the hybrid instrument is not marketed as a contract of sale of a commodity for future delivery (or option on such a contract) subject to applicable provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act. Hybrid instruments may be principal protected, partially protected, or offer no principal protection. A principal protected hybrid instrument means that the issuer will pay, at a minimum, the par value of the note at maturity. Therefore, if the commodity value to which the hybrid instrument is linked declines over the life of the note, the Fund will receive at maturity the face or stated value of the note. With a principal protected hybrid instrument, the Fund will receive at maturity the greater of the par value of the note or the increase in its value based on the underlying commodity or index. This protection is, in effect, an option whose value is subject to the volatility and price level of the underlying commodity. The Manager’s decision whether to use principal protection depends in part on the cost of the protection. In addition, the protection feature depends upon the ability of the issuer to meet its obligation to buy back the security, and, therefore, depends on the creditworthiness of the issuer. With full principal protection, the Fund will receive at maturity of the hybrid instrument either the stated par value of the hybrid instrument, or potentially, an amount greater than the stated par value if the underlying commodity, index, futures contract or economic variable to which the hybrid instrument is linked has increased in value. Partially protected hybrid instruments may suffer some loss of principal if the underlying commodity, index, futures contract or economic variable to which the hybrid instrument is linked declines in value during the term of the hybrid instrument. However, partially protected hybrid instruments have a specified limit as to the amount of principal that they may lose.
Hybrid Instruments Without Principal Protection. Certain Funds may invest in hybrid instruments that offer no principal protection. At maturity, there is a risk that the underlying commodity price, futures contract, index or other economic variable may have declined sufficiently in value such that some or all of the face value of the hybrid instrument might not be returned. The Manager, at its discretion, may invest in a partially protected principal structured note or a note without principal protection. In deciding to purchase a note without principal protection, the Manager may consider, among other things, the expected performance of the underlying commodity futures contract, index or other economic variable over the term of the note, the cost of the note, and any other economic factors that the Manager believes are relevant.
Limitations on Leverage. Some of the hybrid instruments in which a Fund may invest may involve leverage. To avoid being subject to undue leverage risk, a Fund will seek to limit the amount of economic leverage it has under any one hybrid instrument that it buys and the leverage of the Fund’s overall portfolio. A Fund will not invest in a hybrid instrument if, at the time of purchase: (i) that instrument’s “leverage ratio” exceeds 300% of the price increase in the underlying commodity, futures contract, index or other economic variable or (ii) the Fund’s “portfolio leverage ratio” exceeds 150%, measured at the time of purchase. “Leverage ratio” is the expected increase in the value of a hybrid instrument, assuming a one percent price increase in the underlying commodity, futures contract, index or other economic factor. In other words, for a hybrid instrument with a leverage factor of 150%, a 1% gain in the underlying economic variable would be expected to result in a 1.5% gain in value for the hybrid instrument. Conversely, a hybrid instrument with a leverage factor of 150% would suffer a 1.5% loss if the underlying economic variable lost 1% of its value. “Portfolio leverage ratio” is defined as the average (mean) leverage ratio of all instruments in a Fund’s portfolio, weighted by the market values of such instruments or, in the case of futures contracts, their notional values. A Fund may at times or from time to time decide not to use leverage in its investments or use less leverage than may otherwise be allowable.
Counterparty Risk. A significant risk of hybrid instruments is counterparty risk. Unlike exchange-traded futures and options, which are standard contracts, hybrid instruments are customized securities, tailor-made by a specific issuer. With a listed futures or options contract, an investor’s counterparty is the exchange clearinghouse. Exchange clearinghouses are capitalized by the exchange members and typically have high investment grade ratings (e.g., ratings of AAA or AA by S&P). Therefore, the risk is small that an exchange clearinghouse might be unable to meet its obligations at maturity. However, with a hybrid instrument, a Fund will take on the counterparty credit risk of the issuer. That is, at maturity of the hybrid instrument, there is a risk that the issuer may be unable to perform its obligations under the structured note.
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Convertible Securities. A convertible security is a bond, debenture, note, preferred stock or other security that may be converted into or exchanged for a prescribed amount of common stock or other equity security of the same or a different issuer within a particular period of time at a specified price or formula. A convertible security entitles the holder to receive interest paid or accrued on debt or the dividend paid on preferred stock until the convertible security matures or is redeemed, converted or exchanged. Before conversion, convertible securities have characteristics similar to nonconvertible income securities in that they ordinarily provide a stable stream of income with generally higher yields than those of common stocks of the same or similar issuers, but lower yields than comparable nonconvertible securities. The value of a convertible security is influenced by changes in interest rates, with investment value declining as interest rates increase and increasing as interest rates decline. The credit standing of the issuer and other factors also may have an effect on the convertible security’s investment value. Convertible securities rank senior to common stock in a corporation’s capital structure but are usually subordinated to comparable nonconvertible securities. Convertible securities may be subject to redemption at the option of the issuer at a price established in the convertible security’s governing instrument.
The characteristics of convertible securities make them potentially attractive investments for an investment company seeking a high total return from capital appreciation and investment income. These characteristics include the potential for capital appreciation as the value of the underlying common stock increases, the relatively high yield received from dividend or interest payments as compared to common stock dividends and decreased risks of decline in value relative to the underlying common stock due to their fixed-income nature. As a result of the conversion feature, however, the interest rate or dividend preference on a convertible security is generally less than would be the case if the securities were issued in nonconvertible form.
In analyzing convertible securities, the Manager will consider both the yield on the convertible security relative to its credit quality and the potential capital appreciation that is offered by the underlying common stock, among other things.
Convertible securities are issued and traded in a number of securities markets. Even in cases where a substantial portion of the convertible securities held by a Fund are denominated in U.S. dollars, the underlying equity securities may be quoted in the currency of the country where the issuer is domiciled. As a result, fluctuations in the exchange rate between the currency in which the debt security is denominated and the currency in which the share price is quoted will affect the value of the convertible security. With respect to convertible securities denominated in a currency different from that of the underlying equity securities, the conversion price may be based on a fixed exchange rate established at the time the security is issued, which may increase the effects of currency risk. As described below, a Fund is authorized to enter into foreign currency hedging transactions in which it may seek to reduce the effect of exchange rate fluctuations.
Apart from currency considerations, the value of convertible securities is influenced by both the yield on nonconvertible securities of comparable issuers and by the value of the underlying common stock. The value of a convertible security viewed without regard to its conversion feature (i.e., strictly on the basis of its yield) is sometimes referred to as its “investment value.” To the extent interest rates change, the investment value of the convertible security typically will fluctuate. At the same time, however, the value of the convertible security will be influenced by its “conversion value,” which is the market value of the underlying common stock that would be obtained if the convertible security were converted. Conversion value fluctuates directly with the price of the underlying common stock. If the conversion value of a convertible security is substantially below its investment value, the price of the convertible security is governed principally by its investment value. To the extent the conversion value of a convertible security increases to a point that approximates or exceeds its investment value, the price of the convertible security will be influenced principally by its conversion value. A convertible security will sell at a premium over the conversion value to the extent investors place value on the right to acquire the underlying common stock while holding a fixed-income security. The yield and conversion premium of convertible securities issued in Japan and the Euromarket are frequently determined at levels that cause the conversion value to affect their market value more than the securities’ investment value.
Holders of convertible securities generally have a claim on the assets of the issuer prior to the common stockholders but may be subordinated to other debt securities of the same issuer. A convertible security may be subject to redemption at the option of the issuer at a price established in a charter provision, indenture or other governing instrument pursuant to which the convertible security was issued. If a convertible security held by a Fund is called for redemption, the Fund will be required to redeem the security, convert it into the underlying common stock or sell it to a third party. Certain convertible debt securities may provide a put option to the holder, which entitles the holder to cause the security to be redeemed by the issuer at a premium over the stated principal amount of the debt security under certain circumstances.
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A Fund may also invest in synthetic convertible securities. Synthetic convertible securities may include either Cash-Settled Convertibles or Manufactured Convertibles. “Cash-Settled Convertibles” are instruments that are created by the issuer and have the economic characteristics of traditional convertible securities but may not actually permit conversion into the underlying equity securities in all circumstances. As an example, a private company may issue a Cash-Settled Convertible that is convertible into common stock only if the company successfully completes a public offering of its common stock prior to maturity and otherwise pays a cash amount to reflect any equity appreciation. “Manufactured Convertibles” are created by the Manager or another party by combining separate securities that possess one of the two principal characteristics of a convertible security, i.e., fixed-income (“fixed-income component”) or a right to acquire equity securities (“convertibility component”). The fixed-income component is achieved by investing in nonconvertible fixed-income securities, such as nonconvertible bonds, preferred stocks and money market instruments. The convertibility component is achieved by investing in call options, warrants, or other securities with equity conversion features (“equity features”) granting the holder the right to purchase a specified quantity of the underlying stocks within a specified period of time at a specified price or, in the case of a stock index option, the right to receive a cash payment based on the value of the underlying stock index.
A Manufactured Convertible differs from traditional convertible securities in several respects. Unlike a traditional convertible security, which is a single security that has a unitary market value, a Manufactured Convertible is comprised of two or more separate securities, each with its own market value. Therefore, the total “market value” of such a Manufactured Convertible is the sum of the values of its fixed-income component and its convertibility component.
More flexibility is possible in the creation of a Manufactured Convertible than in the purchase of a traditional convertible security. Because many corporations have not issued convertible securities, the Manager may combine a fixed-income instrument and an equity feature with respect to the stock of the issuer of the fixed-income instrument to create a synthetic convertible security otherwise unavailable in the market. The Manager may also combine a fixed-income instrument of an issuer with an equity feature with respect to the stock of a different issuer when the Manager believes such a Manufactured Convertible would better promote a Fund’s objective than alternative investments. For example, the Manager may combine an equity feature with respect to an issuer’s stock with a fixed-income security of a different issuer in the same industry to diversify the Fund’s credit exposure, or with a U.S. Treasury instrument to create a Manufactured Convertible with a higher credit profile than a traditional convertible security issued by that issuer. A Manufactured Convertible also is a more flexible investment in that its two components may be purchased separately and, upon purchasing the separate securities, “combined” to create a Manufactured Convertible. For example, the Fund may purchase a warrant for eventual inclusion in a Manufactured Convertible while postponing the purchase of a suitable bond to pair with the warrant pending development of more favorable market conditions.
The value of a Manufactured Convertible may respond to certain market fluctuations differently from a traditional convertible security with similar characteristics. For example, in the event a Fund created a Manufactured Convertible by combining a short-term U.S. Treasury instrument and a call option on a stock, the Manufactured Convertible would be expected to outperform a traditional convertible of similar maturity that is convertible into that stock during periods when Treasury instruments outperform corporate fixed-income securities and underperform during periods when corporate fixed-income securities outperform Treasury instruments.
Corporate Loans. Certain Funds may invest in corporate loans. Corporate loans are generally non-investment grade floating rate instruments. Usually, they are freely callable at the issuer’s option. Certain Funds may invest in fixed and floating rate loans (“Loans”) arranged through private negotiations between a corporate borrower or a foreign sovereign entity and one or more financial institutions or institutional investors (“Lenders”). A Fund may invest in such Loans in the form of participations in Loans (“Participations”) and assignments of all or a portion of Loans from third parties (“Assignments”). A Fund considers these investments to be investments in debt securities for purposes of its investment policies. Participations typically will result in the Fund having a contractual relationship only with the Lender, not with the borrower. The Fund will have the right to receive payments of principal, interest and any fees to which it is entitled only from the Lender selling the Participation and only upon receipt by the Lender of the payments from the borrower. In connection with purchasing Participations, the Fund generally will have no right to enforce compliance by the borrower with the terms of the loan agreement relating to the Loans, nor any rights of set-off against the borrower, and the Fund may not benefit directly from any collateral supporting the Loan in which it has purchased the Participation. As a result, the Fund will assume the credit risk of both the borrower and the Lender that is selling the Participation. In the event of the insolvency of the Lender selling the Participation, the Fund may be treated as a general creditor of the Lender and may not benefit from any set-off between the Lender and the borrower. The Fund will acquire Participations only if the Lender interpositioned between the Fund and the borrower is determined by the Fund’s manager to be creditworthy. When the Fund purchases Assignments from Lenders, the
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Fund will acquire direct rights against the borrower on the Loan, and will not have exposure to a counterparty’s credit risk. The Funds may enter into Participations and Assignments on a forward commitment or “when-issued” basis, whereby a Fund would agree to purchase a Participation or Assignment at set terms in the future. For more information on forward commitments and when-issued securities, see “When-Issued Securities, Delayed Delivery Securities and Forward Commitments” below.
A Fund may have difficulty disposing of Assignments and Participations. In certain cases, the market for such instruments may lack sufficient liquidity, and therefore the Fund anticipates that in such cases such instruments could be sold only to a limited number of institutional investors. The lack of a sufficiently liquid secondary market may have an adverse impact on the value of such instruments and on the Fund’s ability to dispose of particular Assignments or Participations in response to a specific economic event, such as deterioration in the creditworthiness of the borrower.
Leading financial institutions often act as agent for a broader group of Lenders, generally referred to as a syndicate. The syndicate’s agent arranges the loans, holds collateral and accepts payments of principal and interest. If the agent develops financial problems, a Fund may not recover its investment or recovery may be delayed.
The Loans in which the Fund may invest are subject to the risk of loss of principal and income. Although borrowers frequently provide collateral to secure repayment of these obligations they do not always do so. If they do provide collateral, the value of the collateral may not completely cover the borrower’s obligations at the time of a default. If a borrower files for protection from its creditors under the U.S. bankruptcy laws, these laws may limit a Fund’s rights to its collateral. In addition, the value of collateral may erode during a bankruptcy case. In the event of a bankruptcy, the holder of a Loan may not recover its principal, may experience a long delay in recovering its investment and may not receive interest during the delay.
Transactions in corporate loans may settle on a delayed basis. As a result, the proceeds from the sale of corporate loans may not be readily available to make additional investments or to meet a Fund’s redemption obligations. To the extent the extended settlement process gives rise to short-term liquidity needs, a Fund may hold additional cash, sell investments or temporarily borrow from banks and other lenders.
In certain circumstances, Loans may not be deemed to be securities under certain federal securities laws. Therefore, in the event of fraud or misrepresentation by a borrower or an arranger, Lenders and purchasers of interests in Loans, such as the Funds, may not have the protection of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws as would otherwise be available for bonds or stocks. Instead, in such cases, parties generally would rely on the contractual provisions in the Loan agreement itself and common-law fraud protections under applicable state law.
Direct Lending. The Fund may act as the originator for direct loans and engage in direct lending. Direct loans between the Fund and a borrower may not be administered by an underwriter or agent bank. The Fund may provide financing to commercial borrowers directly or through companies acquired (or created) and owned by or otherwise affiliated with the Fund. The terms of the direct loans are negotiated with borrowers in private transactions. Furthermore, a direct loan may be secured or unsecured.
In determining whether to make a direct loan, the Fund will rely primarily upon the creditworthiness of the borrower and/or any collateral for payment of interest and repayment of principal. The risks associated with direct loans are substantially similar to those associated with investing in corporate loans. In making a direct loan, the Fund is exposed to the risk that the borrower may default or become insolvent and, consequently, that the Fund will lose money on the loan. Furthermore, direct loans may subject the Fund to liquidity and interest rate risk and certain direct loans may be deemed illiquid. Direct loans are not publicly traded and may not have a secondary market. The lack of a secondary market for direct loans may have an adverse impact on the ability of the Fund to dispose of a direct loan and/or to value the direct loan.
When engaging in direct lending, the Fund’s performance may depend, in part, on the ability of the Fund to originate loans on advantageous terms. In originating loans, the Fund will compete with a broad spectrum of lenders. Increased competition for, or a diminishment in the available supply of, qualifying loans could result in lower yields on such loans, which could reduce Fund performance.
As part of its lending activities, the Fund may originate loans to companies that are experiencing significant financial or business difficulties, including companies involved in bankruptcy or other reorganization and liquidation proceedings. Although the terms of such financing may result in significant financial returns to the Fund, they involve a substantial degree of risk. The level of analytical sophistication, both financial and legal, necessary for successful financing to companies experiencing significant business and financial difficulties is unusually high.
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Credit Linked Securities. Among the income producing securities in which a Fund may invest are credit linked securities, which are issued by a limited purpose trust or other vehicle that, in turn, invests in a derivative instrument or basket of derivative instruments, such as credit default swaps, interest rate swaps and other securities, in order to provide exposure to certain fixed-income markets. For instance, a Fund may invest in credit linked securities as a cash management tool in order to gain exposure to a certain market and/or to remain fully invested when more traditional income producing securities are not available.
Like an investment in a bond, investments in these credit linked securities represent the right to receive periodic income payments (in the form of distributions) and payment of principal at the end of the term of the security.
However, these payments are conditioned on the issuer’s receipt of payments from, and the issuer’s potential obligations to, the counterparties to the derivative instruments and other securities in which the issuer invests. For instance, the issuer may sell one or more credit default swaps, under which the issuer would receive a stream of payments over the term of the swap agreements provided that no event of default has occurred with respect to the referenced debt obligation upon which the swap is based. If a default occurs, the stream of payments may stop and the issuer would be obligated to pay the counterparty the par (or other agreed upon value) of the referenced debt obligation. This, in turn, would reduce the amount of income and principal that a Fund would receive. A Fund’s investments in these instruments are indirectly subject to the risks associated with derivative instruments, including, among others, credit risk, default or similar event risk, counterparty risk, interest rate risk, leverage risk and management risk. It is also expected that the securities will be exempt from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, there may be no established trading market for the securities and they may constitute illiquid investments.
Cyber Security Issues. With the increased use of technologies such as the Internet to conduct business, each Fund is susceptible to operational, information security and related risks. In general, cyber incidents can result from deliberate attacks or unintentional events. Cyber attacks include, but are not limited to, gaining unauthorized access to digital systems (e.g., through “hacking” or malicious software coding) for purposes of misappropriating assets or sensitive information, corrupting data, or causing operational disruption. Cyber attacks may also be carried out in a manner that does not require gaining unauthorized access, such as causing denial-of-service attacks on websites (i.e., efforts to make network services unavailable to intended users). Cyber security failures or breaches by a Fund’s adviser, sub-adviser(s) and other service providers (including, but not limited to, Fund accountants, custodians, transfer agents and administrators), and the issuers of securities in which the Funds invest, have the ability to cause disruptions and impact business operations, potentially resulting in financial losses, interference with a Fund’s ability to calculate its NAV, impediments to trading, the inability of Fund shareholders to transact business, violations of applicable privacy and other laws, regulatory fines, penalties, reputational damage, reimbursement or other compensation costs, or additional compliance costs. In addition, substantial costs may be incurred in order to prevent any cyber incidents in the future. While the Funds have established business continuity plans in the event of, and risk management systems to prevent, such cyber attacks, there are inherent limitations in such plans and systems including the possibility that certain risks have not been identified. Furthermore, the Funds cannot control the cyber security plans and systems put in place by service providers to the Funds and issuers in which the Funds invest. The Funds and their shareholders could be negatively impacted as a result.
Debt Securities. Debt securities, such as bonds, involve credit risk. This is the risk that the issuer will not make timely payments of principal and interest. The degree of credit risk depends on the issuer’s financial condition and on the terms of the debt securities. Changes in an issuer’s credit rating or the market’s perception of an issuer’s creditworthiness may also affect the value of a Fund’s investment in that issuer. Credit risk is reduced to the extent a Fund limits its debt investments to U.S. Government Securities.
All debt securities, however, are subject to interest rate risk. This is the risk that the value of the security may fall when interest rates rise. If interest rates move sharply in a manner not anticipated by Fund management, a Fund’s investments in debt securities could be adversely affected and the Fund could lose money. In general, the market price of debt securities with longer maturities will go up or down more in response to changes in interest rates than will the market price of shorter-term debt securities.
During periods of rising interest rates, the average life of certain fixed-income securities is extended because of slower than expected principal payments. This may lock in a below-market interest rate and extend the duration of these fixed-income securities, especially mortgage-related securities, making them more sensitive to changes in interest rates. As a result, in a period of rising interest rates, these securities may exhibit additional volatility and lose value. This is known as extension risk.
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The value of fixed-income securities in the Funds can be expected to vary inversely with changes in prevailing interest rates. Fixed-income securities with longer maturities, which tend to produce higher yields, are subject to potentially greater capital appreciation and depreciation than securities with shorter maturities. The Funds are not restricted to any maximum or minimum time to maturity in purchasing individual portfolio securities, and the average maturity of a Fund’s assets will vary.
Inflation-Indexed Bonds. Certain Funds may invest in inflation-indexed bonds, which are fixed-income securities or other instruments whose principal value is periodically adjusted according to the rate of inflation. Two structures are common. The U.S. Treasury and some other issuers use a structure that accrues inflation into the principal value of the bond. Most other issuers pay out the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) accruals as part of a semi-annual coupon.
Inflation-indexed securities issued by the U.S. Treasury have maturities of five, ten or thirty years, although it is possible that securities with other maturities will be issued in the future. The U.S. Treasury securities pay interest on a semi-annual basis, equal to a fixed percentage of the inflation-adjusted principal amount. For example, if a Fund purchased an inflation-indexed bond with a par value of $1,000 and a 3% real rate of return coupon (payable 1.5% semi-annually), and inflation over the first six months was 1%, the mid-year par value of the bond would be $1,010 and the first semi-annual interest payment would be $15.15 ($1,010 times 1.5%). If inflation during the second half of the year resulted in the whole year’s inflation equaling 3%, the end-of-year par value of the bond would be $1,030 and the second semi-annual interest payment would be $15.45 ($1,030 times 1.5%).
If the periodic adjustment rate measuring inflation falls, the principal value of inflation-indexed bonds will be adjusted downward, and, consequently, the interest payable on these securities (calculated with respect to a smaller principal amount) will be reduced. Repayment of the original bond principal upon maturity (as adjusted for inflation) is guaranteed in the case of U.S. Treasury inflation-indexed bonds, even during a period of deflation. However, the current market value of the bonds is not guaranteed, and will fluctuate. Certain Funds may also invest in other inflation related bonds which may or may not provide a similar guarantee. If a guarantee of principal is not provided, the adjusted principal value of the bond repaid at maturity may be less than the original principal. In addition, if the Fund purchases inflation-indexed bonds offered by foreign issuers, the rate of inflation measured by the foreign inflation index may not be correlated to the rate of inflation in the United States.
The value of inflation-indexed bonds is expected to change in response to changes in real interest rates. Real interest rates, in turn, are tied to the relationship between nominal interest rates and the rate of inflation. Therefore, if inflation were to rise at a faster rate than nominal interest rates, real interest rates might decline, leading to an increase in value of inflation-indexed bonds. In contrast, if nominal interest rates increased at a faster rate than inflation, real interest rates might rise, leading to a decrease in value of inflation-indexed bonds. There can be no assurance, however, that the value of inflation-indexed bonds will be directly correlated to changes in interest rates.
While these securities are expected to be protected from long-term inflationary trends, short-term increases in inflation may lead to a decline in value. If interest rates rise due to reasons other than inflation (for example, due to changes in currency exchange rates), investors in these securities may not be protected to the extent that the increase is not reflected in the bond’s inflation measure.
In general, the measure used to determine the periodic adjustment of U.S. inflation-indexed bonds is the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (“CPI-U”), which is calculated monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI-U is a measurement of changes in the cost of living, made up of components such as housing, food, transportation and energy. Inflation-indexed bonds issued by a foreign government are generally adjusted to reflect a comparable inflation index, calculated by that government. There can be no assurance that the CPI-U or any foreign inflation index will accurately measure the real rate of inflation in the prices of goods and services. Moreover, there can be no assurance that the rate of inflation in a foreign country will be correlated to the rate of inflation in the United States.
Any increase in the principal amount of an inflation-indexed bond will be considered taxable ordinary income, even though investors do not receive their principal until maturity.
Investment Grade Debt Obligations. Certain Funds may invest in “investment grade securities,” which are securities rated in the four highest rating categories of an NRSRO or deemed to be of equivalent quality by a Fund’s Manager. Certain Funds may invest in debt securities rated Aaa by Moody’s or AAA by S&P. It should be noted that debt obligations rated in the lowest of the top four ratings (i.e., “Baa” by Moody’s or “BBB” by S&P) are considered to have some speculative characteristics and are more sensitive to economic change than higher rated securities. If an investment grade security of a Fund is subsequently downgraded below investment grade, the Fund’s Manager will consider such an event in determining whether the Fund should continue to hold the security. Subject to its investment strategies, there is no limit on the amount of such downgraded securities a Fund may hold.
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See Appendix A to this SAI for a description of applicable securities ratings.
High Yield Investments (“Junk Bonds”).
Non-investment grade or “high yield” fixed-income or convertible securities commonly known to investors as “junk bonds” are debt securities that are rated below investment grade by the major rating agencies or are securities that Fund management believes are of comparable quality. While generally providing greater income and opportunity for gain, non-investment grade debt securities may be subject to greater risks than securities which have higher credit ratings, including a high risk of default, and their yields will fluctuate over time. High yield securities will generally be in the lower rating categories of recognized rating agencies (rated “Ba” or lower by Moody’s or “BB” or lower by S&P) or will be non-rated. The credit rating of a high yield security does not necessarily address its market value risk, and ratings may from time to time change, positively or negatively, to reflect developments regarding the issuer’s financial condition. High yield securities are considered to be speculative with respect to the capacity of the issuer to timely repay principal and pay interest or dividends in accordance with the terms of the obligation and may have more credit risk than higher rated securities.
The major risks in junk bond investments include the following:
Junk bonds may be issued by less creditworthy companies. These securities are vulnerable to adverse changes in the issuer’s industry and to general economic conditions. Issuers of junk bonds may be unable to meet their interest or principal payment obligations because of an economic downturn, specific issuer developments or the unavailability of additional financing.
The issuers of junk bonds may have a larger amount of outstanding debt relative to their assets than issuers of investment grade bonds. If the issuer experiences financial stress, it may be unable to meet its debt obligations. The issuer’s ability to pay its debt obligations also may be lessened by specific issuer developments, or the unavailability of additional financing. Issuers of high yield securities are often in the growth stage of their development and/or involved in a reorganization or takeover.
Junk bonds are frequently ranked junior to claims by other creditors. If the issuer cannot meet its obligations, the senior obligations are generally paid off before the junior obligations, which will potentially limit a Fund’s ability to fully recover principal or to receive interest payments when senior securities are in default. Thus, investors in high yield securities have a lower degree of protection with respect to principal and interest payments then do investors in higher rated securities.
Junk bonds frequently have redemption features that permit an issuer to repurchase the security from a Fund before it matures. If an issuer redeems the junk bonds, a Fund may have to invest the proceeds in bonds with lower yields and may lose income.
Prices of junk bonds are subject to extreme price fluctuations. Negative economic developments may have a greater impact on the prices of junk bonds than on those of other higher rated fixed-income securities.
Junk bonds may be less liquid than higher rated fixed-income securities even under normal economic conditions. Under certain economic and/or market conditions, a Fund may have difficulty disposing of certain high yield securities due to the limited number of investors in that sector of the market. There are fewer dealers in the junk bond market, and there may be significant differences in the prices quoted for junk bonds by the dealers, and such quotations may not be the actual prices available for a purchase or sale. Because junk bonds are less liquid than higher rated bonds, judgment may play a greater role in valuing certain of a Fund’s portfolio securities than in the case of securities trading in a more liquid market.
The secondary markets for high yield securities are not as liquid as the secondary markets for higher rated securities. The secondary markets for high yield securities are concentrated in relatively few market makers and participants in the markets are mostly institutional investors, including insurance companies, banks, other financial institutions and mutual funds. In addition, the trading volume for high yield securities is generally lower than that for higher rated securities and the secondary markets could contract under adverse market or economic conditions independent of any specific adverse changes in the condition of a particular issuer. Under certain economic and/or market conditions, a Fund may have difficulty disposing of certain high yield securities due to the limited number of investors in that sector of the market. An illiquid secondary market may adversely affect the market price of the high yield security, which may result in increased difficulty selling the particular issue and obtaining accurate market quotations on the issue when valuing a Fund’s assets. Market quotations on high yield securities are available only from a limited number of dealers, and such quotations may not be the actual prices available for a purchase or sale. When the secondary market for high yield securities becomes more illiquid, or in the absence of readily available market quotations for such securities, the relative lack of
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  reliable objective data makes it more difficult to value a Fund’s securities, and judgment plays a more important role in determining such valuations.
A Fund may incur expenses to the extent necessary to seek recovery upon default or to negotiate new terms with a defaulting issuer.
The junk bond markets may react strongly to adverse news about an issuer or the economy, or to the perception or expectation of adverse news, whether or not it is based on fundamental analysis. Additionally, prices for high yield securities may be affected by legislative and regulatory developments. These developments could adversely affect a Fund’s NAV and investment practices, the secondary market for high yield securities, the financial condition of issuers of these securities and the value and liquidity of outstanding high yield securities, especially in a thinly traded market. For example, federal legislation requiring the divestiture by federally insured savings and loan associations of their investments in high yield bonds and limiting the deductibility of interest by certain corporate issuers of high yield bonds adversely affected the market in the past.
The rating assigned by a rating agency evaluates the issuing agency’s assessment of the safety of a non-investment grade security’s principal and interest payments, but does not address market value risk. Because such ratings of the ratings agencies may not always reflect current conditions and events, in addition to using recognized rating agencies and other sources, the sub-adviser performs its own analysis of the issuers whose non-investment grade securities a Fund holds. Because of this, the Fund’s performance may depend more on the sub-adviser’s own credit analysis than in the case of mutual funds investing in higher-rated securities.
In selecting non-investment grade securities, the adviser or sub-adviser considers factors such as those relating to the creditworthiness of issuers, the ratings and performance of the securities, the protections afforded the securities and the diversity of the Fund. The sub-adviser continuously monitors the issuers of non-investment grade securities held by the Fund for their ability to make required principal and interest payments, as well as in an effort to control the liquidity of the Fund so that it can meet redemption requests. If a security’s rating is reduced below the minimum credit rating that is permitted for a Fund, the Fund’s sub-adviser will consider whether the Fund should continue to hold the security.
In the event that a Fund investing in high yield securities experiences an unexpected level of net redemptions, the Fund could be forced to sell its holdings without regard to the investment merits, thereby decreasing the assets upon which the Fund’s rate of return is based.
The costs attributable to investing in the junk bond markets are usually higher for several reasons, such as higher investment research costs and higher commission costs.
Mezzanine Investments. Certain Funds, consistent with their restrictions on investing in securities of a specific credit quality, may invest in certain high yield securities known as mezzanine investments, which are subordinated debt securities which are generally issued in private placements in connection with an equity security (e.g., with attached warrants). Such mezzanine investments may be issued with or without registration rights. Similar to other high yield securities, maturities of mezzanine investments are typically seven to ten years, but the expected average life is significantly shorter at three to five years. Mezzanine investments are usually unsecured and subordinate to other obligations of the issuer.
Pay-in-kind Bonds. Certain Funds may invest in pay-in-kind, or PIK, bonds. PIK bonds are bonds which pay interest through the issuance of additional debt or equity securities. Similar to zero coupon obligations, pay-in-kind bonds also carry additional risk as holders of these types of securities realize no cash until the cash payment date unless a portion of such securities is sold and, if the issuer defaults, a Fund may obtain no return at all on its investment. The market price of pay-in-kind bonds is affected by interest rate changes to a greater extent, and therefore tends to be more volatile, than that of securities which pay interest in cash. Additionally, current U.S. federal tax law requires the holder of pay-in-kind bonds to accrue income with respect to these securities prior to the receipt of cash payments. To maintain its qualification as a regulated investment company and avoid liability for U.S. federal income and excise taxes, each Fund may be required to distribute income accrued with respect to these securities and may have to dispose of portfolio securities under disadvantageous circumstances in order to generate cash to satisfy these distribution requirements.
Supranational Entities. A Fund may invest in debt securities of supranational entities. Examples of such entities include the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank), the European Steel and Coal Community, the Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. The government members, or “stockholders,” usually make initial capital contributions to the supranational entity and in many cases are committed to make additional capital contributions if the supranational entity is unable to repay its borrowings. There is no guarantee that one or more stockholders of a supranational entity will continue to make any necessary
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additional capital contributions. If such contributions are not made, the entity may be unable to pay interest or repay principal on its debt securities, and a Fund may lose money on such investments.
Depositary Receipts (ADRs, EDRs and GDRs). Certain Funds may invest in the securities of foreign issuers in the form of Depositary Receipts or other securities convertible into securities of foreign issuers. Depositary Receipts may not necessarily be denominated in the same currency as the underlying securities into which they may be converted. The Fund may invest in both sponsored and unsponsored American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”), European Depositary Receipts (“EDRs”), Global Depositary Receipts (“GDRs”) and other similar global instruments. ADRs typically are issued by an American bank or trust company and evidence ownership of underlying securities issued by a foreign corporation. EDRs, which are sometimes referred to as Continental Depositary Receipts, are receipts issued in Europe, typically by foreign banks and trust companies, that evidence ownership of either foreign or domestic underlying securities. GDRs are depositary receipts structured like global debt issues to facilitate trading on an international basis. In addition to investment risks associated with the underlying issuer, Depositary Receipts expose a Fund to additional risks associated with the non-uniform terms that apply to Depositary Receipt programs, credit exposure to the depository bank and to the sponsors and other parties with whom the depository bank establishes the programs, currency risk and the risk of an illiquid market for Depositary Receipts. Unsponsored ADR, EDR and GDR programs are organized independently and without the cooperation of the issuer of the underlying securities. Unsponsored programs generally expose investors to greater risks than sponsored programs and do not provide holders with many of the shareholder benefits that come from investing in a sponsored Depositary Receipt. Available information concerning the issuer may not be as current as for sponsored ADRs, EDRs and GDRs, and the prices of unsponsored ADRs, EDRs and GDRs may be more volatile than if such instruments were sponsored by the issuer. Depositary Receipts are generally subject to the same risks as the foreign securities that they evidence or into which they may be converted. Investments in ADRs, EDRs and GDRs present additional investment considerations as described under “Foreign Investment Risks.”
Derivatives.
General. Each Fund may use instruments referred to as derivatives, which are financial instruments that derive their value from one or more securities, commodities (such as gold or oil), currencies, interest rates, credit events or indices (a measure of value or rates, such as the S&P 500 Index or the prime lending rate). Derivatives may allow a Fund to increase or decrease the level of risk to which the Fund is exposed more quickly and efficiently than with other transactions. Certain Funds may use derivatives to maintain a portion of their long and short positions. Unless otherwise permitted, no Fund may use derivatives to gain exposure to an asset or asset class it is prohibited by its investment restrictions from purchasing directly. As described below, derivatives can be used for hedging or speculative purposes. Funds will engage in transaction-level payment netting, i.e., the payment obligations of derivatives contracts are netted against one another with the Fund receiving or paying, as the case may be, only the net amount of the two payment streams.
Hedging. Each Fund may use derivatives for hedging purposes, in which a derivative is used to offset the risks associated with other Fund holdings. Losses on other investments may be substantially reduced by gains on a derivative that reacts in an opposite manner to market movements. Although hedging may reduce losses, it may also reduce or eliminate gains. In addition, hedging may cause losses if the market moves in an unanticipated manner, or if the cost of the derivative outweighs the benefit of the hedge. The effectiveness of hedging may be reduced by correlation risk, i.e., the risk that changes in the value of the derivative will not match those of the holdings being hedged as expected by a Fund, which may result in additional losses to the Fund. The inability to close or offset derivatives could also reduce the effectiveness of a Fund’s hedging. There is no assurance that a Fund’s hedging will be effective. No Fund is required to use derivatives to hedge.
Speculation. Certain Funds may also use derivatives for speculative purposes to seek to enhance returns. The use of a derivative is speculative if the Fund is primarily seeking to achieve gains, rather than offset the risk of other positions. To the extent a Fund invests in a derivative for speculative purposes, the Fund will be fully exposed to the risks of loss of that derivative, which may sometimes be greater than the derivative’s cost, and the potential for loss in certain cases may be unlimited.
Regulation of Derivatives.
Rule 18f-4 Under the Investment Company Act. Rule 18f-4 under the Investment Company Act permits a Fund to enter into Derivatives Transactions (as defined below) and certain other transactions notwithstanding the restrictions on the issuance of “senior securities” under Section 18 of the Investment Company Act. Section 18 of the
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Investment Company Act, among other things, prohibits open-end funds, including the Funds, from issuing or selling any “senior security,” other than borrowing from a bank (subject to a requirement to maintain 300% “asset coverage”).
Under Rule 18f-4, “Derivatives Transactions” include the following: (1) any swap, security-based swap (including a contract for differences), futures contract, forward contract, option (excluding purchased options), any combination of the foregoing, or any similar instrument, under which a Fund is or may be required to make any payment or delivery of cash or other assets during the life of the instrument or at maturity or early termination, whether as margin or settlement payment or otherwise; (2) any short sale borrowing; (3) reverse repurchase agreements and similar financing transactions (e.g., recourse and non-recourse tender option bonds, and borrowed bonds), if a Fund elects to treat these transactions as Derivatives Transactions under Rule 18f-4; and (4) when-issued or forward-settling securities (e.g., firm and standby commitments, including to-be-announced (“TBA”) commitments, and dollar rolls) and non-standard settlement cycle securities, unless such transactions meet the Delayed-Settlement Securities Provision (as defined below under “—When-Issued Securities, Delayed Delivery Securities and Forward Commitments”).
Unless a Fund is relying on the Limited Derivatives User Exception (as defined below), the Fund must comply with Rule 18f-4 with respect to its Derivatives Transactions. Rule 18f-4, among other things, requires a Fund to adopt and implement a comprehensive written derivatives risk management program (“DRMP”) and comply with a relative or absolute limit on Fund leverage risk calculated based on value-at-risk (“VaR”). The DRMP is administered by a “derivatives risk manager,” who is appointed by the Fund’s Board, including a majority of the independent Directors, and periodically reviews the DRMP and reports to the Fund’s Board.
Rule 18f-4 provides an exception from the DRMP, VaR limit and certain other requirements if a Fund’s “derivatives exposure” is limited to 10% of its net assets (as calculated in accordance with Rule 18f-4) and the Fund adopts and implements written policies and procedures reasonably designed to manage its derivatives risks (the “Limited Derivatives User Exception”).
Dodd-Frank Regulations. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), enacted in July 2010, includes provisions that comprehensively regulate the over-the-counter (“OTC”) derivatives markets for the first time. While the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and other U.S. regulators have adopted many of the required Dodd-Frank regulations, certain regulations have only recently become effective and other regulations remain to be adopted. The full impact of Dodd-Frank on the Funds remains uncertain.
OTC derivatives dealers are now required to register with the CFTC as “swap dealers” and will ultimately be required to register with the SEC as “security-based swap dealers”. Registered swap dealers are subject to various regulatory requirements, including, but not limited to, margin, recordkeeping, reporting, transparency, position limits, limitations on conflicts of interest, business conduct standards, minimum capital requirements and other regulatory requirements.
The CFTC requires that certain interest rate swaps and certain credit default swaps must be executed in regulated markets and be submitted for clearing to regulated clearinghouses. The SEC is also expected to impose similar requirements on certain security-based derivatives in the future. OTC derivatives trades submitted for clearing are subject to minimum initial and variation margin requirements set by the relevant clearinghouse, as well as margin requirements mandated by the CFTC, SEC and/or federal prudential regulators. In addition, futures commission merchants (“FCMs”), who act as clearing members on behalf of customers for cleared OTC derivatives and futures contracts, also have discretion to increase a Fund’s margin requirements for these transactions beyond any regulatory and clearinghouse minimums subject to any restrictions on such discretion in the documentation between the FCM and the customer. These regulatory requirements may make it more difficult and costly for the Funds to enter into highly tailored or customized transactions, potentially rendering certain investment strategies impossible or not economically feasible. If a Fund decides to execute and clear cleared OTC derivatives and/or futures contracts through execution facilities, exchanges or clearinghouses, either indirectly through an executing broker, clearing member FCM or as a direct member, a Fund would be required to comply with the rules of the execution facility, exchange or clearinghouse and other applicable law.
With respect to cleared OTC derivatives and futures contracts and options on futures, a Fund will not face a clearinghouse directly but rather will do so through a FCM that is registered with the CFTC and/or SEC and that acts as a clearing member. A Fund may face the indirect risk of the failure of another clearing member customer to meet its obligations to its clearing member. Such scenario could arise due to a default by the clearing member on its obligations to the clearinghouse simultaneously with a customer’s failure to meet its obligations to the clearing member.
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Clearing member FCMs are required to post initial margin to the clearinghouses through which they clear their customers’ cleared OTC derivatives and futures contracts, instead of using such initial margin in their businesses, as was widely permitted before Dodd-Frank. While an FCM may require its customer to post initial margin in excess of clearinghouse requirements, and certain clearinghouses may share a portion of their earnings on initial margin with their clearing members, some portion of the initial margin that is passed through to the clearinghouse does not generate earnings for the FCM. The inability of FCMs to earn the same levels of returns on initial margin for cleared OTC derivatives as they could earn with respect to non-cleared OTC derivatives may cause FCMs to charge higher fees, or provide less favorable pricing on cleared OTC derivatives than swap dealers will provide for non-cleared OTC derivatives. Furthermore, customers, including the Funds, are subject to additional fees payable to FCMs with respect to cleared OTC derivatives, which may raise the cost to Funds of clearing as compared to trading non-cleared OTC derivatives bilaterally.
With respect to uncleared swaps, swap dealers are required to collect variation margin from a Fund and may be required by applicable regulations to collect initial margin from a Fund. Both initial and variation margin may be comprised of cash and/or securities, subject to applicable regulatory haircuts. Shares of investment companies (other than certain money market funds) may not be posted as collateral under applicable regulations.
The CFTC and the U.S. commodities exchanges impose limits on the maximum net long or net short speculative positions that any person may hold or control in any particular futures or options contracts traded on U.S. commodities exchanges. For example, the CFTC has historically imposed speculative position limits on a number of agricultural commodities (e.g., corn, oats, wheat, soybeans and cotton) and United States commodities exchanges currently impose speculative position limits on many other commodities. A Fund could be required to liquidate positions it holds in order to comply with position limits or may not be able to fully implement trading instructions generated by its trading models, in order to comply with position limits. Any such liquidation or limited implementation could result in substantial costs to a Fund.
Dodd-Frank significantly expanded the CFTC’s authority to impose position limits with respect to agricultural commodities and other physical commodity futures contracts, options on these futures contracts and economically equivalent swaps. In October 2020, the CFTC adopted a new set of speculative position limit rules with respect to agricultural commodities and other physical commodity futures contracts, options on these futures contracts (“core referenced futures contracts”) and economically equivalent swaps. An economically equivalent swap is a swap with identical material contractual specifications, terms and conditions to a core referenced futures contract, disregarding differences with respect to any of the following: (1) lot size specifications or notional amounts, (2) post-trade risk management arrangements and (3) delivery dates for physically-settled swaps as long as these delivery dates diverge by less than one calendar day from the referenced contract’s delivery date (or, for natural gas, two calendar days). A cash-settled swap could only be deemed to be economically equivalent to a cash-settled referenced contract, and a physically-settled swap could only be deemed to be economically equivalent to a physically-settled referenced contract. However, a cash-settled swap that initially did not qualify as economically equivalent due to the fact that there was no corresponding cash-settled core referenced futures contract could subsequently become an economically equivalent swap if a cash-settled futures contract market were to subsequently be developed. The CFTC’s new position limits rules include an exemption from limits for bona fide hedging transactions or positions. A bona fide hedging transaction or position may exceed the applicable federal position limits if the transaction or position: (1) represents a substitute for transactions or positions made or to be made at a later time in a physical marketing channel; (2) is economically appropriate to the reduction of price risks in the conduct and management of a commercial enterprise; and (3) arises from the potential change in value of (A) assets which a person owns, produces, manufactures, processes or merchandises, or anticipates owning, producing, manufacturing, processing or merchandising; (B) liabilities which a person owes or anticipates incurring; or (C) services that a person provides or purchases, or anticipates providing or purchasing. The CFTC’s new position rules set forth a list of enumerated bona fide hedges for which a market participant is not required to request prior approval from the CFTC in order to hold a bona fide hedge position above the federal position limit. However, a market participant holding an enumerated bona fide hedge position still would need to request an exemption from the relevant exchange for exchange-set limits. For non-enumerated bona fide hedge positions, a market participant may request CFTC approval which must be granted prior to exceeding the applicable federal position limit, except where there is a demonstrated sudden or unforeseen increase in bona fide hedging needs (in which case the application must be submitted within five business days after the market participant exceeds the applicable limit). The compliance dates for the CFTC’s new federal speculative position limits are January 1, 2022 for the core referenced futures contracts and January 1, 2023 for economically equivalent swaps. While the ultimate effect of the final position limit rules are not yet known, these limits will likely restrict the ability of many market participants to trade in the commodities markets to the same extent as they have
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in the past. These rules may, among other things, reduce liquidity, increase market volatility, limit the size and duration of positions available to market participants, and increase costs in these markets, which could adversely affect a Fund.
These new regulations and the resulting increased costs and regulatory oversight requirements may result in market participants being required or deciding to limit their trading activities, which could lead to decreased market liquidity and increased market volatility. In addition, transaction costs incurred by market participants are likely to be higher due to the increased costs of compliance with the new regulations. These consequences could adversely affect a Fund’s returns.
Additional Regulation of Derivatives. Regulatory bodies outside the U.S. have also passed, proposed, or may propose in the future, legislation similar to Dodd-Frank or other legislation that could increase the costs of participating in, or otherwise adversely impact the liquidity of, participating in the commodities markets. For example, the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 648/2012) (“EMIR”) introduced certain requirements in respect of OTC derivatives including: (i) the mandatory clearing of OTC derivative contracts declared subject to the clearing obligation; (ii) risk mitigation techniques in respect of uncleared OTC derivative contracts, including the mandatory margining of uncleared OTC derivative contracts; and (iii) reporting and recordkeeping requirements in respect of all derivatives contracts. By way of further example, the European Union Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Directive 2014/65/EU) and Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 600/2014) (together “MiFID II”), which have applied since January 3, 2018, govern the provision of investment services and activities in relation to, as well as the organized trading of, financial instruments such as shares, bonds, units in collective investment schemes and derivatives. In particular, MiFID II requires European Union Member States to apply position limits to the size of a net position a person can hold at any time in commodity derivatives traded on European Union trading venues and in “economically equivalent” OTC contracts. If the requirements of EMIR and MiFID II apply, the cost of derivatives transactions is expected to increase.
In addition, regulations adopted by global prudential regulators that are now in effect require certain prudentially regulated entities and certain of their affiliates and subsidiaries (including swap dealers) to include in their derivatives contracts and certain other financial contracts, terms that delay or restrict the rights of counterparties (such as the Funds) to terminate such contracts, foreclose upon collateral, exercise other default rights or restrict transfers of credit support in the event that the prudentially regulated entity and/or its affiliates are subject to certain types of resolution or insolvency proceedings. Similar regulations and laws have been adopted in non-U.S. jurisdictions that may apply to a Fund’s counterparties located in those jurisdictions. It is possible that these new requirements, as well as potential additional related government regulation, could adversely affect a Fund’s ability to terminate existing derivatives contracts, exercise default rights or satisfy obligations owed to it with collateral received under such contracts.
Risk Factors in Derivatives.
There are significant risks that apply generally to derivatives transactions, including:
Correlation Risk — the risk that changes in the value of a derivative will not match the changes in the value of the portfolio holdings that are being hedged or of the particular market or security to which the Fund seeks exposure. There are a number of factors which may prevent a derivative instrument from achieving the desired correlation (or inverse correlation) with an underlying asset, rate or index, such as the impact of fees, expenses and transaction costs, the timing of pricing, and disruptions or illiquidity in the markets for such derivative instrument.
Counterparty Risk — the risk that a derivatives transaction counterparty will be unable or unwilling to make payments or otherwise honor its obligations to a Fund and the related risks of having concentrated exposure to such a counterparty. In particular, derivatives traded in OTC markets often are not guaranteed by an exchange or clearing corporation and often do not require payment of margin, and to the extent that the Fund has unrealized gains in such instruments or has deposited collateral with its counterparties the Fund is at risk that its counterparties will become bankrupt or otherwise fail to honor their obligations. A Fund will typically attempt to minimize counterparty risk by engaging in OTC derivatives transactions only with creditworthy entities that have substantial capital or that have provided the Fund with a third-party guaranty or other credit support.
Credit Risk — the risk that the reference entity in a credit default swap or similar derivative will not be able to honor its financial obligations.
Currency Risk — the risk that changes in the exchange rate between two currencies will adversely affect the value (in U.S. dollar terms) of a derivative.
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Illiquidity Risk — the risk that certain securities or instruments may be difficult or impossible to sell at the time or at the price desired by the counterparty in connection with payments of margin, collateral, or settlement payments. There can be no assurance that a Fund will be able to unwind or offset a derivative at its desired price, in a secondary market or otherwise. It may, therefore, not be possible for the Fund to unwind its position in a derivative without incurring substantial losses (if at all). Certain OTC derivatives, including swaps and OTC options, involve substantial illiquidity risk. Illiquidity may also make it more difficult for a Fund to ascertain a market value for such derivatives. A Fund will, therefore, acquire illiquid OTC derivatives (i) if the agreement pursuant to which the instrument is purchased contains a formula price at which the instrument may be terminated or sold, or (ii) for which the Manager anticipates the Fund can receive on each business day at least two independent bids or offers, unless a quotation from only one dealer is available, in which case that dealer’s quotation may be used. The illiquidity of the derivatives markets may be due to various factors, including congestion, disorderly markets, limitations on deliverable supplies, the participation of speculators, government regulation and intervention, and technical and operational or system failures. In addition, the liquidity of a secondary market in an exchange-traded derivative contract may be adversely affected by “daily price fluctuation limits” established by the exchanges which limit the amount of fluctuation in an exchange-traded contract price during a single trading day. Once the daily limit has been reached in the contract, no trades may be entered into at a price beyond the limit, thus preventing the liquidation of open positions. Prices have in the past moved beyond the daily limit on a number of consecutive trading days. If it is not possible to close an open derivative position entered into by the Fund, the Fund would continue to be required to make daily cash payments of variation margin in the event of adverse price movements. In such a situation, if the Fund has insufficient cash, it may have to sell portfolio securities to meet daily variation margin requirements at a time when it may be disadvantageous to do so.
Index Risk — if the derivative is linked to the performance of an index, it will be subject to the risks associated with changes in that index. If the index changes, the Fund could receive lower interest payments or experience a reduction in the value of the derivative to below the price that the Fund paid for such derivative.
Legal Risk — the risk of insufficient documentation, insufficient capacity or authority of counterparty, or legality or enforceability of a contract.
Leverage Risk — the risk that a Fund’s derivatives transactions can magnify the Fund’s gains and losses. Relatively small market movements may result in large changes in the value of a derivatives position and can result in losses that greatly exceed the amount originally invested.
Market Risk — the risk that changes in the value of one or more markets or changes with respect to the value of the underlying asset will adversely affect the value of a derivative. In the event of an adverse movement, a Fund may be required to pay substantial additional margin to maintain its position or the Fund’s returns may be adversely affected.
Operational Risk — the risk related to potential operational issues, including documentation issues, settlement issues, systems failures, inadequate controls and human error.
Valuation Risk — the risk that valuation sources for a derivative will not be readily available in the market. This is possible especially in times of market distress, since many market participants may be reluctant to purchase complex instruments or quote prices for them.
Volatility Risk — the risk that the value of derivatives will fluctuate significantly within a short time period.
Types of Derivatives Transactions.
A Fund may enter into derivatives transactions in accordance with its investment guidelines and restrictions, including the following:
Futures.
A Fund may enter into futures contracts (“futures”) and options on futures contracts. Futures are standardized, exchange-traded contracts that require a purchaser to take delivery, and a seller to make delivery, of a specified amount of an asset at a specified future date and price. Upon purchasing or selling a futures contract, a Fund is required to deposit initial margin equal to a percentage (generally less than 10%) of the contract value. Futures contracts are marked to market daily for the duration of the contract, and the Fund will either post additional margin or be entitled to a payment, as applicable, based on the mark-to-market movement of the contract.
A Fund may sell a futures contract prior to the completion of its term to limit its risk of loss from a decline in the market value of portfolio holdings correlated with the futures contract. However, in the event the market value of the portfolio holdings correlated with the futures contract increases rather than decreases, a Fund will realize a loss on
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the futures position and a lower return on the portfolio holdings than would have been realized without the purchase of the futures contract.
The purchase of a futures contract may provide a Fund a lower cost alternative to purchasing securities or commodities directly. In the event that such securities or commodities decline in value or a Fund determines not to complete an anticipatory hedge transaction relating to a futures contract, however, the Fund may realize a loss relating to the futures position.
Futures contracts are also subject to position limits. In order to comply with position limits, a Fund may be required to liquidate positions or may not be able to fully implement trading instructions. Any such liquidation or limited implementation could result in substantial costs to a Fund. See “—Regulation of Derivatives — Dodd-Frank Regulations” above.
A Fund is also permitted to purchase or sell call and put options on futures contracts, including financial futures and stock indices. Generally, these strategies would be used under the same market and market sector conditions (i.e., conditions relating to specific types of investments) in which the Fund entered into futures transactions. A Fund may purchase put options or write call options on futures contracts and stock indices in lieu of selling the underlying futures contract in anticipation of a decrease in the market value of its securities. Similarly, a Fund can purchase call options, or write put options on futures contracts and stock indices, as a substitute for the purchase of such futures contracts to hedge against the increased cost resulting from an increase in the market value of securities which the Fund intends to purchase.
To maintain greater flexibility, a Fund may invest in instruments which have characteristics similar to futures contracts. These instruments may take a variety of forms, such as debt securities with interest or principal payments determined by reference to the value of a security, an index of securities or a commodity at a future point in time. The risks of such investments could reflect the risks of investing in futures and securities, including volatility and illiquidity.
Futures contracts and options on futures contracts are subject to significant correlation risk, leverage risk, illiquidity risk, market risk and counterparty risk with respect to a Fund’s futures broker or the clearinghouse. See “—Risk Factors in Derivatives” above.
Certain Funds may invest in futures based on carbon “allowances.” Under certain regulatory regimes, a limit is set by a regulator, such as a government entity, on the total amount of specific greenhouse gases, such as CO2, that can be emitted by regulated entities, such as manufacturers or energy producers. The regulator then may issue or sell individual “emission allowances” to regulated entities, which can then be traded on the open market. Commodity futures contracts linked to the value of emission allowances are known as “carbon futures.”
The price for carbon futures contracts is based on a number of factors, including the supply of and the demand for carbon futures contracts. Market conditions and expectations, position limits, collateral requirements, and other factors each can impact the supply of and demand for carbon futures contracts. The market for carbon futures contracts is still developing and may be subject to periods of illiquidity. During such times it may be difficult or impossible to buy or sell a position at the desired price. Market disruptions or volatility can also make it difficult to find a counterparty willing to transact at a reasonable price and sufficient size.
Swap Agreements.
A Fund may enter into swap agreements for hedging purposes or speculative purposes. Swap agreements are OTC contracts entered into primarily by financial institutions and institutional investors which may or may not be cleared by a central clearinghouse. In a standard “swap” transaction, two parties agree to exchange the returns earned or realized from one or more underlying assets or rates of return, which may be adjusted for an interest factor. The gross returns to be exchanged or “swapped” between the parties are generally calculated with respect to a “notional amount,” e.g., the return or increase in value of a particular dollar amount invested at a particular interest rate, in a particular foreign currency, or in a “basket” of securities representing a particular index. The notional amount of the swap agreement is only used to calculate the obligations that the parties to a swap agreement have agreed to exchange. A Fund’s obligations (or rights) under a swap agreement will generally be equal only to the net amount to be paid or received under the agreement based on the relative values of the positions held by each party to the agreement. Swaps that are not cleared involve substantial counterparty risk. A Fund will typically attempt to mitigate this counterparty risk by entering into swap agreements only with creditworthy entities that have substantial capital or that have provided the Fund with a third-party guaranty or other credit support. A Fund’s ability to use swap agreements may be restricted by the tax rules applicable to registered investment companies.
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Credit Default Swaps and Similar Instruments. Certain Funds may enter into credit default swaps and similar instruments. Credit default swaps are standardized agreements in which the protection “buyer” pays the protection “seller” an up-front payment, or a periodic stream of payments, over the term of the contract, provided generally that no credit event on a reference obligation has occurred. If a credit event occurs, the seller generally must pay the buyer the difference between the notional amount of the contract and the value of a portfolio of securities issued by the reference entity. A Fund may be either the buyer or seller in the transaction. The Funds may enter into credit default swaps that reference the obligations of a single entity (“single-name CDS”) or the obligations of entities that make up an index (“index CDS”). References to “credit default swaps” shall collectively refer to single-name CDS and index CDS.
Credit default swaps have as reference obligations one or more securities or loans that are not currently held by a Fund. In circumstances in which a Fund does not own the securities or loans that are deliverable under a credit default swap, the Fund is exposed to the risk that deliverable securities will not be available in the market, or will be available only at unfavorable prices, as would be the case in a so-called “short squeeze.” In certain instances of issuer defaults or restructurings, it has been unclear under the standard industry documentation for credit default swaps whether or not a “credit event” triggering the seller’s payment obligation had occurred. Certain initiatives adopted by derivatives market participants, including the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (“ISDA”), are designed to implement uniform settlement terms into standard credit default swap documentation, as well as refine the practices for the transparent conduct of the credit default swap market generally. Among these initiatives are the ISDA Credit Derivatives Determination Committee and the implementation of market-wide cash settlement protocols applicable to all market-standard credit default swaps. These initiatives are intended to reduce both the uncertainty as to the occurrence of credit events and the risk of a “short squeeze” by providing that the ISDA Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee will make determinations as to whether a credit event has occurred, establish an auction to determine a settlement price and identify the deliverable securities for purposes of the auction, although the ISDA Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee may in certain limited circumstances refrain from doing so. In the event the ISDA Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee cannot reach a timely resolution with respect to a “credit event” or otherwise does not establish a cash settlement auction, a Fund may not be able to realize the full value of the credit default swap upon a default by the reference entity. Furthermore, a Fund may enter into certain credit default swaps or similar instruments that may not be covered by these initiatives.
If a Fund is a buyer, it will lose the payments made under the terms of the credit default swap and recover nothing should no credit event occur. If a Fund is a seller and a credit event occurs, the value of any deliverable obligation received by the Fund or the amount of cash settlement received by the Fund pursuant to the relevant cash settlement auction, together with the up-front or periodic payments previously received, may be less than the amount it pays to the buyer, resulting in a loss of value to the Fund. A Fund that sells credit default swaps incurs leveraged exposure to the credit of one or more reference entities and is subject to many of the same risks it would incur if it were holding debt securities issued by the relevant reference entity. However, a Fund will not have any legal recourse against any reference entity and will not benefit from any collateral securing the reference entity’s debt obligations. In the event the ISDA Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee does not establish a cash settlement auction and identify the relevant deliverable securities or loans, the credit default swap buyer will have broad discretion to select which of the reference entity’s debt obligations to deliver to the Fund following a credit event and will likely choose the obligations with the lowest market value in order to maximize the payment obligations of the Fund. In addition, credit default swaps generally trade on the basis of theoretical pricing and valuation models, which may not accurately value such swap positions when established or when subsequently traded or unwound under actual market conditions.
Dodd-Frank requires that certain index CDS be executed in regulated markets and submitted for clearing to regulated clearinghouses. See “—Derivatives — Regulation of Derivatives — Dodd-Frank Regulations” above. Other single-name CDS and index CDS are permitted, although not required, to be cleared through regulated clearinghouses. The Funds clear all credit default swaps that are subject to mandatory clearing and may voluntarily clear some, but not all, of the other credit default swaps not subject to mandatory clearing. The Funds face counterparty risk with respect to the clearinghouse when entering into cleared single-name CDS and cleared index CDS. The Funds face significant counterparty risk with respect to their counterparties to non-cleared credit default swaps and similar instruments. A Fund typically will enter into non-cleared credit default swaps and similar instruments with swap dealers and creditworthy entities that have substantial capital or that have provided the Fund with a third-party guaranty or other credit support.
In addition, credit default swaps and similar instruments generally involve greater risks than if a Fund had invested in the reference obligation directly and are subject to significant credit risk, correlation risk, leverage risk, illiquidity risk and market risk. See “—Risk Factors in Derivatives” above.
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Interest Rate Swaps, Floors and Caps. Certain Funds may enter into OTC derivatives in the form of interest rate swaps and interest rate caps and floors. As described in further detail below, a Fund may enter into these transactions primarily to preserve a return or spread on a particular investment or portion of its holdings, as a duration management technique, to protect against an increase in the price of securities a Fund anticipates purchasing at a later date, or for speculation to increase returns.
Dodd-Frank requires that certain interest rate swaps be executed in regulated markets and submitted for clearing to regulated clearinghouses. See “—Regulation of Derivatives — Dodd-Frank Regulations” above. Other interest rate swaps are permitted, although not required, to be cleared. Most of the interest rate swaps entered into by the Funds are cleared. The Funds face counterparty risk with respect to the clearinghouse when entering into cleared interest rate swaps.
The Funds face significant counterparty risk with respect to their counterparties to non-cleared interest rate swaps and interest rate caps and floors. The typical counterparties for a Fund’s non-cleared interest rate derivatives transactions are swap dealers and other creditworthy entities that have substantial capital or that have provided the Fund with a third-party guaranty or other credit support. If the Fund’s counterparty defaults on such a transaction, a Fund will have contractual remedies with respect to the transaction. The market for interest rate swaps is relatively liquid in comparison with other similar instruments traded in the interbank market. A Fund may be limited in its ability to enter into certain interest rate derivatives due to applicable income tax requirements.
Interest rate swaps are transactions in which each party makes periodic interest payments based on a fixed or variable interest rate, index or asset in return for periodic payments from its counterparty based on a different fixed or variable interest rate, index or asset.
The purchase of an interest rate floor entitles the purchaser, to the extent that a specified index falls below a predetermined interest rate, to receive payments of interest on a notional principal amount from the party selling such interest rate floor.
The purchase of an interest rate cap entitles the purchaser, to the extent that a specified index rises above a predetermined interest rate, to receive payments of interest on a notional principal amount from the party selling such interest rate cap.
A Fund may enter into an interest rate swap to effectively exchange with another party their respective commitments to pay or receive interest, e.g., an exchange of fixed rate payments for floating rate payments. For example, if a Fund holds a mortgage-backed security with an interest rate that is reset only once each year, it may swap the right to receive interest at this fixed rate for the right to receive interest at a rate that is reset every week. This would enable a Fund to offset a decline in the value of the mortgage-backed security due to rising interest rates but would also limit its ability to benefit from falling interest rates. Conversely, if a Fund holds a mortgage-backed security with an interest rate that is reset every week and it would like to lock in what it believes to be a high interest rate for one year, it may swap the right to receive interest at this variable weekly rate for the right to receive interest at a rate that is fixed for one year. Such a swap would protect the Fund from a reduction in yield due to falling interest rates and may permit the Fund to enhance its income through the positive differential between one week and one year interest rates, but would preclude it from taking full advantage of rising interest rates.
Gains from transactions in interest rate swaps distributed to shareholders will be taxable as ordinary income or, in certain circumstances, as long term capital gains to shareholders.
Interest rate swaps and interest rate caps and floors may be subject to correlation risk, leverage risk, illiquidity risk and market risk. See “—Risk Factors in Derivatives” above.
Total Return Swaps. Total return swaps are contracts in which one party agrees to make periodic payments to the other party based on the return of the assets underlying the contract in exchange for periodic payments based on a fixed or variable interest rate or the total return from different underlying assets. The return of the assets underlying the contract includes both the income generated by the asset and the change in market value of the asset. The asset underlying the contract may include a specified security, basket of securities or securities indices. Total return swaps on a specified security, basket of securities or securities indices may sometimes be referred to as “contracts for difference.”
Total return swaps may be used to obtain exposure to a security or market without owning or taking physical custody of such security or investing directly in such market. Upon entering into a total return swap, a Fund is required to deposit initial margin but the parties do not exchange the notional amount. As a result, total return swaps may effectively add leverage to the Fund’s portfolio because the Fund would be subject to investment exposure on the notional amount of the swap.
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Total return swaps are subject to significant correlation risk, leverage risk, illiquidity risk, market risk and counterparty risk. See “—Risk Factors in Derivatives” above.
Options
Options on Securities and Securities Indices. A Fund may engage in transactions in options on individual securities, baskets of securities or securities indices, or particular measurements of value or rates, such as an index of the price of treasury securities or an index representative of short-term interest rates. Such investments may be made on exchanges and in the OTC markets. In general, exchange-traded options have standardized exercise prices and expiration dates and require the parties to post margin against their obligations, and the performance of the parties’ obligations in connection with such options is guaranteed by the exchange or a related clearing corporation. OTC options have more flexible terms negotiated between the buyer and the seller, but are subject to greater credit risk. OTC options also involve greater illiquidity risk.
A Fund may also engage in transactions in options which have additional features that result in different payment structures and/or expirations (commonly referred to as exotic options). For example, barrier options are exotic options that can only be exercised (or automatically expire) if the price of the underlying asset reaches one or more predetermined levels on or before expiration. Binary options are another example of exotic options which have a fixed all-or-nothing payout if one or more predetermined conditions are met. Exotic options are typically traded in OTC markets.
There are several risks associated with transactions in options on securities and indexes. For example, there are significant differences between the securities and options markets that could result in an imperfect correlation between these markets, causing a given transaction not to achieve its objectives. In addition, a liquid secondary market for particular options, whether traded OTC or on a national securities exchange (“Exchange”) may be absent for reasons which include the following: there may be insufficient trading interest in certain options; restrictions may be imposed by an Exchange on opening transactions or closing transactions or both; trading halts, suspensions or other restrictions may be imposed with respect to particular classes or series of options or underlying securities; unusual or unforeseen circumstances may interrupt normal operations on an Exchange; the facilities of an Exchange or the Options Clearing Corporation may not at all times be adequate to handle current trading volume; or one or more Exchanges could, for economic or other reasons, decide or be compelled at some future date to discontinue the trading of options (or a particular class or series of options), in which event the secondary market on that Exchange (or in that class or series of options) would cease to exist, although outstanding options that had been issued by the Options Clearing Corporation as a result of trades on that Exchange would continue to be exercisable in accordance with their terms.
Call Options. A Fund may purchase call options on any of the types of securities or instruments in which it may invest. A purchased call option gives a Fund the right to buy, and obligates the seller to sell, the underlying security at the exercise price at any time during the option period. A Fund also may purchase and sell call options on indices. Index options are similar to options on securities except that, rather than taking or making delivery of securities underlying the option at a specified price upon exercise, an index option gives the holder the right to receive cash upon exercise of the option if the level of the index upon which the option is based is greater than the exercise price of the option.
A written call option is covered if a Fund holds a call on the same security or index as the call written where the exercise price of the call held is (i) equal to or less than the exercise price of the call written, or (ii) greater than the exercise price of the call written provided the difference is maintained by the Fund in assets which are not considered illiquid investments under the Funds’ Liquidity Program (as defined below) (“liquid assets”) designated on the Manager’s or sub-adviser’s books and records to the extent required by Commission guidelines.
A Fund may write (i.e., sell) covered call options on the securities or instruments in which it may invest and to enter into closing purchase transactions with respect to certain of such options. A covered call option is an option in which a Fund, in return for a premium, gives another party a right to buy specified securities owned by the Fund at a specified future date and price set at the time of the contract. The principal reason for writing call options is the attempt to realize, through the receipt of premiums, a greater return than would be realized on the securities alone. By writing covered call options, a Fund gives up the opportunity, while the option is in effect, to profit from any price increase in the underlying security above the option exercise price. In addition, a Fund’s ability to sell the underlying security will be limited while the option is in effect unless the Fund enters into a closing purchase transaction. A closing purchase transaction cancels out a Fund’s position as the writer of an option by means of an offsetting purchase of an identical option prior to the expiration of the option it has written. Covered call options also serve as a partial hedge to the extent of the premium received against the price of the underlying security declining.
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A Fund may write (i.e., sell) uncovered call options on securities or instruments in which it may invest but that are not currently held by the Fund. The principal reason for writing uncovered call options is to realize income without committing capital to the ownership of the underlying securities or instruments. When writing uncovered call options, a Fund must deposit and maintain sufficient margin with the broker-dealer through which it made the uncovered call option as collateral to ensure that the securities can be purchased for delivery if and when the option is exercised. During periods of declining securities prices or when prices are stable, writing uncovered calls can be a profitable strategy to increase a Fund’s income with minimal capital risk. Uncovered calls are riskier than covered calls because there is no underlying security held by a Fund that can act as a partial hedge. Uncovered calls have speculative characteristics and the potential for loss is unlimited. When an uncovered call is exercised, a Fund must purchase the underlying security to meet its call obligation. There is also a risk, especially with preferred and debt securities that lack sufficient liquidity, that the securities may not be available for purchase. If the purchase price exceeds the exercise price, a Fund will lose the difference.
Put Options. A Fund may purchase put options to seek to hedge against a decline in the value of its securities or to enhance its return. By buying a put option, a Fund acquires a right to sell the underlying securities or instruments at the exercise price, thus limiting the Fund’s risk of loss through a decline in the market value of the securities or instruments until the put option expires. The amount of any appreciation in the value of the underlying securities or instruments will be partially offset by the amount of the premium paid for the put option and any related transaction costs. Prior to its expiration, a put option may be sold in a closing sale transaction and profit or loss from the sale will depend on whether the amount received is more or less than the premium paid for the put option plus the related transaction costs. A closing sale transaction cancels out a Fund’s position as the purchaser of an option by means of an offsetting sale of an identical option prior to the expiration of the option it has purchased. A Fund also may purchase uncovered put options.
A Fund also may write (i.e., sell) put options on the types of securities or instruments that may be held by the Fund. A Fund will receive a premium for writing a put option, which increases the Fund’s return.
A Fund also may write (i.e., sell) uncovered put options on securities or instruments in which it may invest but with respect to which the Fund does not currently have a corresponding short position or has not deposited as collateral cash equal to the exercise value of the put option with the broker-dealer through which it made the uncovered put option. The principal reason for writing uncovered put options is to receive premium income and to acquire such securities or instruments at a net cost below the current market value. A Fund has the obligation to buy the securities or instruments at an agreed upon price if the price of the securities or instruments decreases below the exercise price. If the price of the securities or instruments increases during the option period, the option will expire worthless and a Fund will retain the premium and will not have to purchase the securities or instruments at the exercise price.
Options on Government National Mortgage Association (“GNMA”) Certificates. The following information relates to the unique characteristics of options on GNMA Certificates. Since the remaining principal balance of GNMA Certificates declines each month as a result of mortgage payments, a Fund, as a writer of a GNMA call holding GNMA Certificates as “cover” to satisfy its delivery obligation in the event of exercise, may find that the GNMA Certificates it holds no longer have a sufficient remaining principal balance for this purpose. Should this occur, a Fund will purchase additional GNMA Certificates from the same pool (if obtainable) or other GNMA Certificates in the cash market in order to maintain its “cover.”
A GNMA Certificate held by a Fund to cover an option position in any but the nearest expiration month may cease to represent cover for the option in the event of a decline in the GNMA coupon rate at which new pools are originated under the FHA/VA loan ceiling in effect at any given time. If this should occur, a Fund will no longer be covered, and the Fund will either enter into a closing purchase transaction or replace such Certificate with a certificate that represents cover. When a Fund closes its position or replaces such Certificate, it may realize an unanticipated loss and incur transaction costs.
Options on Swaps (“Swaptions”). A swaption gives a counterparty the option (but not the obligation) to enter into a new swap agreement or to shorten, extend, cancel or otherwise modify an existing swap agreement, at a designated future time on specified terms. A Fund may write (i.e., sell) and purchase put and call swaptions. Depending on the terms of the particular option agreement, a Fund will generally incur a greater degree of risk when it writes a swaption than it will incur when it purchases a swaption. When a Fund purchases a swaption, it risks losing only the amount of the premium it has paid should it decide to let the option expire unexercised. However, when a Fund writes a swaption, upon exercise of the option the Fund will become obligated according to the terms of the underlying agreement and the potential for loss may be unlimited. Certain swaptions are permitted, although not required, to be cleared.
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A Fund will likely enter into these transactions to preserve a return or spread on a particular investment or portion of its portfolio or to protect against any increase in the price of securities the Fund anticipates purchasing at a later date. A Fund generally will use these transactions for hedging purposes, not for speculation.
Swaptions may be subject to correlation risk, leverage risk, illiquidity risk and market risk. See “—Risk Factors in Derivatives” above.
Foreign Exchange Transactions.
A Fund may enter into spot foreign exchange transactions, forward foreign exchange transactions (“FX forwards”) and currency swaps, purchase and sell currency options, currency futures and related options thereon (collectively, “Currency Instruments”) for purposes of hedging against the decline in the value of currencies in which its portfolio holdings are denominated against the U.S. dollar or, with respect to certain Funds, to seek to enhance returns.
Such transactions could be effected to hedge with respect to foreign dollar denominated securities owned by a Fund, sold by a Fund but not yet delivered, or committed or anticipated to be purchased by a Fund. As an illustration, a Fund may use such techniques to hedge the stated value in U.S. dollars of an investment in a yen-denominated security. For example, the Fund may purchase a foreign currency put option enabling it to sell a specified amount of yen for dollars at a specified price by a future date. To the extent the hedge is successful, a loss in the value of the yen relative to the dollar will tend to be offset by an increase in the value of the put option. To offset, in whole or in part, the cost of acquiring such a put option, the Fund may also sell a call option which, if exercised, requires it to sell a specified amount of yen for dollars at a specified price by a future date (a technique called a “straddle”). By selling such a call option in this illustration, the Fund gives up the opportunity to profit without limit from increases in the relative value of the yen to the dollar. “Straddles” of the type that may be used by a Fund are considered hedging transactions. Certain Funds have a fundamental investment restriction that restricts currency option strategies.
Hedging transactions involving Currency Instruments involve substantial risks, including correlation risk. A Fund’s use of Currency Instruments to effect hedging strategies is intended to reduce the volatility of the NAV of the Fund’s shares; however, the use of such hedging strategies will not prevent the NAV of the Fund’s shares from fluctuating. Moreover, although Currency Instruments will be used with the intention of hedging against adverse currency movements, transactions in Currency Instruments involve the risk that anticipated currency movements will not be accurately predicted and that the Fund’s hedging strategies will be ineffective. To the extent that a Fund hedges against anticipated currency movements that do not occur, the Fund may realize losses and decrease its total return. Furthermore, a Fund will only engage in hedging activities from time to time and may not be engaging in hedging activities when movements in currency exchange rates actually occur.
In connection with its trading in forward foreign currency contracts, a Fund will contract with a foreign or domestic bank, or foreign or domestic securities dealer, to make or take future delivery of a specified amount of a particular currency. There are no limitations on daily price moves in such forward contracts, and banks and dealers are not required to continue to make markets in such contracts. There have been periods during which certain banks or dealers have refused to quote prices for such forward contracts or have quoted prices with an unusually wide spread between the price at which the bank or dealer is prepared to buy and that at which it is prepared to sell. Governmental imposition of currency controls might limit any such forward contract trading. With respect to its trading of forward contracts, if any, a Fund will be subject to counterparty risk. Any such failure to perform by a counterparty would deprive the Fund of any profit potential or force the Fund to cover its commitments for resale, if any, at the then market price and could result in a loss to the Fund.
It may not be possible for a Fund to hedge against currency exchange rate movements, even if correctly anticipated, in the event that (i) the currency exchange rate movement is so generally anticipated that the Fund is not able to enter into a hedging transaction at an effective price, or (ii) the currency exchange rate movement relates to a market with respect to which Currency Instruments are not available and it is not possible to engage in effective foreign currency hedging. The cost to a Fund of engaging in foreign currency transactions varies with such factors as the currencies involved, the length of the contract period and the market conditions then prevailing. Since transactions in foreign currency exchange usually are conducted on a principal basis, no fees or commissions are involved.
A Fund will not hedge a currency in excess of the aggregate market value of the securities that it owns (including receivables for unsettled securities sales), or has committed to purchase or anticipates purchasing, which are denominated in such currency.
Spot Transactions and FX Forwards. FX forwards are OTC contracts to purchase or sell a specified amount of a specified currency or multinational currency unit at a specified price and specified future date. Spot foreign exchange
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transactions are similar but are settled in the current, or “spot”, market. A Fund will enter into foreign exchange transactions for purposes of hedging either a specific transaction or a portfolio position, or, with respect to certain Funds, to seek to enhance returns. FX forwards involve substantial currency risk, credit risk and liquidity risk. A Fund may enter into a foreign exchange transaction for purposes of hedging a specific transaction by, for example, purchasing a currency needed to settle a security transaction or selling a currency in which the Fund has received or anticipates receiving a dividend or distribution. A Fund may enter into a foreign exchange transaction for purposes of hedging a portfolio position by selling forward a currency in which a portfolio position of the Fund is denominated or by purchasing a currency in which the Fund anticipates acquiring a portfolio position in the near future. A Fund may also hedge a currency by entering into a transaction in a Currency Instrument denominated in a currency other than the currency being hedged (a “cross-hedge”). A Fund will only enter into a cross-hedge if the Manager believes that (i) there is a demonstrably high correlation between the currency in which the cross-hedge is denominated and the currency being hedged, and (ii) executing a cross-hedge through the currency in which the cross-hedge is denominated will be significantly more cost-effective or provide substantially greater liquidity than executing a similar hedging transaction by means of the currency being hedged.
A Fund may also engage in proxy hedging transactions to reduce the effect of currency fluctuations on the value of existing or anticipated holdings of portfolio securities. Proxy hedging is often used when the currency to which the Fund is exposed is difficult to hedge, or to hedge against the U.S. dollar. Proxy hedging entails entering into a forward contract to sell a currency whose changes in value are generally considered to be linked to a currency or currencies in which some or all of the Fund’s securities are, or are expected to be, denominated, and to buy U.S. dollars. Proxy hedging involves some of the same risks and considerations as other transactions with similar instruments. Currency transactions can result in losses to the Fund if the currency being hedged fluctuates in value to a degree or in a direction that is not anticipated. In addition, there is the risk that the perceived linkage between various currencies may not be present, including during the particular time that a Fund is engaging in proxy hedging.
A Fund may also cross-hedge currencies by entering into forward contracts to sell one or more currencies that are expected to decline in value relative to other currencies to which the Fund has or in which the Fund expects to have portfolio exposure. For example, a Fund may hold both Canadian government bonds and Japanese government bonds, and the Manager or sub-adviser may believe that Canadian dollars will deteriorate against Japanese yen. The Fund would sell Canadian dollars to reduce its exposure to that currency and buy Japanese yen. This strategy would be a hedge against a decline in the value of Canadian dollars, although it would expose the Fund to declines in the value of the Japanese yen relative to the U.S. dollar.
Some of the forward non-U.S. currency contracts entered into by the Funds are classified as non-deliverable forwards (“NDFs”). NDFs are cash-settled, short-term forward contracts that may be thinly traded or are denominated in non-convertible foreign currency, where the profit or loss at the time at the settlement date is calculated by taking the difference between the agreed upon exchange rate and the spot rate at the time of settlement, for an agreed upon notional amount of funds. All NDFs have a fixing date and a settlement date. The fixing date is the date at which the difference between the prevailing market exchange rate and the agreed upon exchange rate is calculated. The settlement date is the date by which the payment of the difference is due to the party receiving payment. NDFs are commonly quoted for time periods of one month up to two years, and are normally quoted and settled in U.S. dollars. They are often used to gain exposure to and/or hedge exposure to foreign currencies that are not internationally traded.
Currency Futures. A Fund may seek to enhance returns or hedge against the decline in the value of a currency through use of currency futures or options on currency futures. Currency futures are similar to forward foreign exchange transactions except that futures are standardized, exchange-traded contracts while forward foreign exchange transactions are traded in the OTC market. Currency futures involve substantial currency risk as well as the risks discussed above in “—Futures.”
Currency Options. A Fund may seek to enhance returns or hedge against the decline in the value of a currency through the use of currency options. Certain Funds have fundamental investment restrictions that permit the purchase of currency options, but prohibit the writing of currency options. Currency options are similar to options on securities. For example, in consideration for an option premium the writer of a currency option is obligated to sell (in the case of a call option) or purchase (in the case of a put option) a specified amount of a specified currency on or before the expiration date for a specified amount of another currency. A Fund may engage in transactions in options on currencies either on exchanges or OTC markets. Such transactions in options may include exotic options on currencies, which are typically traded in OTC markets and have additional features that result in different payment structures and/or expirations. Where a Fund is permitted to write currency options, it may write covered call options
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on up to 100% of the currencies in its portfolio. See “—Options” above. Currency options involve substantial currency risk, and may also involve credit, leverage or illiquidity risk.
Currency Swaps. A Fund may enter into currency swaps in order to protect against currency fluctuations or to hedge portfolio positions. Currency swaps are transactions in which one currency is simultaneously bought for a second currency on a spot basis and sold for the second currency on a forward basis. Currency swaps involve the exchange of the rights of a Fund and another party to make or receive payments in specified currencies, and typically require the delivery of the entire principal value of one designated currency in exchange for the other designated currency. As a result, the entire principal value of a currency swap is subject to the risk that the other party to the swap will default on its contractual delivery obligations.
Distressed Securities. A Fund may invest in securities, including loans purchased in the secondary market, that are the subject of bankruptcy proceedings or otherwise in default or in risk of being in default as to the repayment of principal and/or interest at the time of acquisition by the Fund or that are rated in the lower rating categories by one or more nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (for example, Ca or lower by Moody’s and CC or lower by S&P or Fitch) or, if unrated, are in the judgment of the Manager of equivalent quality (“Distressed Securities”). Investment in Distressed Securities is speculative and involves significant risks.
A Fund will generally make such investments only when the Manager believes it is reasonably likely that the issuer of the Distressed Securities will make an exchange offer or will be the subject of a plan of reorganization pursuant to which the Fund will receive new securities in return for the Distressed Securities. However, there can be no assurance that such an exchange offer will be made or that such a plan of reorganization will be adopted. In addition, a significant period of time may pass between the time at which a Fund makes its investment in Distressed Securities and the time that any such exchange offer or plan of reorganization is completed. During this period, it is unlikely that a Fund will receive any interest payments on the Distressed Securities, the Fund will be subject to significant uncertainty as to whether or not the exchange offer or plan of reorganization will be completed and the Fund may be required to bear certain extraordinary expenses to protect and recover its investment. Therefore, to the extent the Fund seeks capital appreciation through investment in distressed securities, the Fund’s ability to achieve current income for its shareholders may be diminished. The Fund also will be subject to significant uncertainty as to when and in what manner and for what value the obligations evidenced by the distressed securities will eventually be satisfied (e.g., through a liquidation of the obligor’s assets, an exchange offer or plan of reorganization involving the distressed securities or a payment of some amount in satisfaction of the obligation). Even if an exchange offer is made or plan of reorganization is adopted with respect to Distressed Securities held by a Fund, there can be no assurance that the securities or other assets received by a Fund in connection with such exchange offer or plan of reorganization will not have a lower value or income potential than may have been anticipated when the investment was made or no value. Moreover, any securities received by a Fund upon completion of an exchange offer or plan of reorganization may be restricted as to resale. Similarly, if a Fund participates in negotiations with respect to any exchange offer or plan of reorganization with respect to an issuer of Distressed Securities, the Fund may be restricted from disposing of such securities. To the extent that a Fund becomes involved in such proceedings, the Fund may have a more active participation in the affairs of the issuer than that assumed generally by an investor. The Fund, however, will not make investments for the purpose of exercising day-to-day management of any issuer’s affairs.
Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) Integration. Although a Fund does not seek to implement a specific sustainability objective, strategy or process unless disclosed in its Prospectus, Fund management will consider ESG factors as part of the investment process for the Fund. Fund management views ESG integration as the practice of incorporating financially material ESG data or information into investment processes with the objective of enhancing risk-adjusted returns. These ESG considerations will vary depending on a Fund’s particular investment strategies and may include consideration of third-party research as well as consideration of proprietary BlackRock research across the ESG risks and opportunities regarding an issuer. The ESG characteristics utilized in a Fund’s investment process are anticipated to evolve over time and one or more characteristics may not be relevant with respect to all issuers that are eligible for investment.
Certain of these considerations may affect a Fund’s exposure to certain companies or industries. While Fund management views ESG considerations as having the potential to contribute to a Fund’s long-term performance, there is no guarantee that such results will be achieved.
Equity Securities. Certain Funds may invest in equity securities, which include common stock and, for certain Funds, preferred stock (including convertible preferred stock); bonds, notes and debentures convertible into common or preferred stock; stock purchase warrants and rights; equity interests in trusts; general and limited partnerships and limited liability companies; and depositary receipts. Stock markets are volatile. The price of equity securities will
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fluctuate and can decline and reduce the value of a portfolio investing in equities. The price of equity securities fluctuates based on changes in a company’s financial condition and overall market and economic conditions. The value of equity securities purchased by the Fund could decline if the financial condition of the companies the Fund invests in decline or if overall market and economic conditions deteriorate. They may also decline due to factors that affect a particular industry or industries, such as labor shortages or increase in production costs and competitive conditions within an industry. In addition, they may decline due to general market conditions that are not specifically related to a company or industry, such as real or perceived adverse economic conditions, changes in the general outlook for corporate earnings, changes in interest or currency rates or generally adverse investor sentiment.
From time to time certain of the Funds may invest in shares of companies through initial public offerings (“IPOs”). IPOs have the potential to produce, and have in fact produced, substantial gains for certain Funds. There is no assurance that any Fund will have continued access to profitable IPOs and therefore investors should not rely on these past gains as an indication of future performance. The investment performance of a Fund during periods when it is unable to invest significantly or at all in IPOs may be lower than during periods when it is able to do so. In addition, as a Fund increases in size, the impact of IPOs on its performance will generally decrease. Securities issued in IPOs are subject to many of the same risks as investing in companies with smaller market capitalizations. Securities issued in IPOs have no trading history, and information about the companies may be available for very limited periods. In addition, the prices of securities sold in IPOs may be highly volatile or may decline shortly after the initial public offering.
The Funds may invest in companies that have relatively small market capitalizations. These organizations will normally have more limited product lines, markets and financial resources and will be dependent upon a more limited management group than larger capitalized companies. In addition, it is more difficult to get information on smaller companies, which tend to be less well known, have shorter operating histories, do not have significant ownership by large investors and are followed by relatively few securities analysts. The securities of smaller capitalized companies are often traded in the OTC markets and may have fewer market makers and wider price spreads. This may result in greater price movements and less ability to sell a Fund’s investment than if the Fund held the securities of larger, more established companies.
For a discussion of the types of equity securities in which your Fund may invest and the risks associated with investing in such equity securities, see your Fund’s Prospectus.
Real Estate-Related Securities. Although no Fund may invest directly in real estate, certain Funds may invest in equity securities of issuers that are principally engaged in the real estate industry. Such investments are subject to certain risks associated with the ownership of real estate and with the real estate industry in general. These risks include, among others: possible declines in the value of real estate; risks related to general and local economic conditions; possible lack of availability of mortgage funds or other limitations on access to capital; overbuilding; risks associated with leverage; market illiquidity; extended vacancies of properties; increase in competition, property taxes, capital expenditures and operating expenses; changes in zoning laws or other governmental regulation; costs resulting from the clean-up of, and liability to third parties for damages resulting from, environmental problems; tenant bankruptcies or other credit problems; casualty or condemnation losses; uninsured damages from floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters; limitations on and variations in rents, including decreases in market rates for rents; investment in developments that are not completed or that are subject to delays in completion; and changes in interest rates. To the extent that assets underlying a Fund’s investments are concentrated geographically, by property type or in certain other respects, the Fund may be subject to certain of the foregoing risks to a greater extent. Investments by a Fund in securities of companies providing mortgage servicing will be subject to the risks associated with refinancings and their impact on servicing rights.
In addition, if a Fund receives rental income or income from the disposition of real property acquired as a result of a default on securities the Fund owns, the receipt of such income may adversely affect the Fund’s ability to retain its tax status as a regulated investment company because of certain income source requirements applicable to regulated investment companies under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”).
Securities of Smaller or Emerging Growth Companies. Investment in smaller or emerging growth companies involves greater risk than is customarily associated with investments in more established companies. The securities of smaller or emerging growth companies may be subject to more abrupt or erratic market movements than larger, more established companies or the market average in general. These companies may have limited product lines, markets or financial resources, or they may be dependent on a limited management group.
While smaller or emerging growth company issuers may offer greater opportunities for capital appreciation than large cap issuers, investments in smaller or emerging growth companies may involve greater risks and thus may be
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considered speculative. Fund management believes that properly selected companies of this type have the potential to increase their earnings or market valuation at a rate substantially in excess of the general growth of the economy. Full development of these companies and trends frequently takes time.
Small cap and emerging growth securities will often be traded only in the OTC market or on a regional securities exchange and may not be traded every day or in the volume typical of trading on a national securities exchange. As a result, the disposition by a Fund of portfolio securities to meet redemptions or otherwise may require the Fund to make many small sales over a lengthy period of time, or to sell these securities at a discount from market prices or during periods when, in Fund management’s judgment, such disposition is not desirable.
The process of selection and continuous supervision by Fund management does not, of course, guarantee successful investment results; however, it does provide access to an asset class not available to the average individual due to the time and cost involved. Careful initial selection is particularly important in this area as many new enterprises have promise but lack certain of the fundamental factors necessary to prosper. Investing in small cap and emerging growth companies requires specialized research and analysis. In addition, many investors cannot invest sufficient assets in such companies to provide wide diversification.
Small companies are generally little known to most individual investors although some may be dominant in their respective industries. Fund management believes that relatively small companies will continue to have the opportunity to develop into significant business enterprises. A Fund may invest in securities of small issuers in the relatively early stages of business development that have a new technology, a unique or proprietary product or service, or a favorable market position. Such companies may not be counted upon to develop into major industrial companies, but Fund management believes that eventual recognition of their special value characteristics by the investment community can provide above-average long-term growth to the portfolio.
Equity securities of specific small cap issuers may present different opportunities for long-term capital appreciation during varying portions of economic or securities market cycles, as well as during varying stages of their business development. The market valuation of small cap issuers tends to fluctuate during economic or market cycles, presenting attractive investment opportunities at various points during these cycles.
Smaller companies, due to the size and kinds of markets that they serve, may be less susceptible than large companies to intervention from the Federal government by means of price controls, regulations or litigation.
Exchange-Traded Notes (“ETNs”). Certain Funds may invest in ETNs. ETNs are generally notes representing debt of the issuer, usually a financial institution. ETNs combine both aspects of bonds and exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”). An ETN’s returns are based on the performance of one or more underlying assets, reference rates or indexes, minus fees and expenses. Similar to ETFs, ETNs are listed on an exchange and traded in the secondary market. However, unlike an ETF, an ETN can be held until the ETN’s maturity, at which time the issuer will pay a return linked to the performance of the specific asset, index or rate (“reference instrument”) to which the ETN is linked minus certain fees. Unlike regular bonds, ETNs do not make periodic interest payments, and principal is not protected.
The value of an ETN may be influenced by, among other things, time to maturity, level of supply and demand for the ETN, volatility and lack of liquidity in underlying markets, changes in the applicable interest rates, the performance of the reference instrument, changes in the issuer’s credit rating and economic, legal, political or geographic events that affect the reference instrument. An ETN that is tied to a reference instrument may not replicate the performance of the reference instrument. ETNs also incur certain expenses not incurred by their applicable reference instrument. Some ETNs that use leverage may, at times, be illiquid and may be difficult to purchase or sell at a fair price. Levered ETNs are subject to the same risk as other instruments that use leverage in any form. While leverage allows for greater potential return, the potential for loss is also greater. Finally, additional losses may be incurred if the investment loses value because, in addition to the money lost on the investment, the loan still needs to be repaid.
Because the return on the ETN is dependent on the issuer’s ability or willingness to meet its obligations, the value of the ETN may change due to a change in the issuer’s credit rating, despite no change in the underlying reference instrument. The market value of ETN shares may differ from the value of the reference instrument. This difference in price may be due to the fact that the supply and demand in the market for ETN shares at any point in time is not always identical to the supply and demand in the market for the assets underlying the reference instrument that the ETN seeks to track.
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There may be restrictions on the Fund’s right to redeem its investment in an ETN, which are generally meant to be held until maturity. The Fund’s decision to sell its ETN holdings may be limited by the availability of a secondary market. An investor in an ETN could lose some or all of the amount invested.
Foreign Investments.
Foreign Investment Risks. Certain Funds may invest in foreign securities, including securities from issuers located in emerging market countries. These securities may be denominated in U.S. dollars or in a foreign currency. Investing in foreign securities involves risks not typically associated with investing in securities of companies organized and operated in the United States that can increase the chances that a Fund will lose money.
Securities issued by certain companies organized outside the United States may not be deemed to be foreign securities (but rather deemed to be U.S. securities) if (i) the company’s principal operations are conducted from the U.S., (ii) the company’s equity securities trade principally on a U.S. stock exchange, (iii) the company does a substantial amount of business in the U.S. or (iv) the issuer of securities is included in the Fund’s primary U.S. benchmark index.
In addition to equity securities, foreign investments of the Funds may include: (a) debt obligations issued or guaranteed by foreign sovereign governments or their agencies, authorities, instrumentalities or political subdivisions, including a foreign state, province or municipality; (b) debt obligations of supranational organizations; (c) debt obligations of foreign banks and bank holding companies; (d) debt obligations of domestic banks and corporations issued in foreign currencies; (e) debt obligations denominated in the Euro; and (f) foreign corporate debt securities and commercial paper. Such securities may include loan participations and assignments, convertible securities and zero-coupon securities.
Dividends or interest on, or proceeds from the sale of, foreign securities may be subject to foreign withholding taxes.
Foreign Market Risk. Funds that may invest in foreign securities offer the potential for more diversification than a Fund that invests only in the United States because securities traded on foreign markets have often (though not always) performed differently from securities traded in the United States. However, such investments often involve risks not present in U.S. investments that can increase the chances that a Fund will lose money. In particular, a Fund is subject to the risk that, because there are generally fewer investors on foreign exchanges and a smaller number of shares traded each day, it may be difficult for the Fund to buy and sell securities on those exchanges. In addition, prices of foreign securities may fluctuate more than prices of securities traded in the United States. Investments in foreign markets may also be adversely affected by governmental actions such as the imposition of punitive taxes. In addition, economic conditions, such as volatile currency exchange rates and interest rates, political events, military action and other conditions may, without prior warning, lead to the governments of certain countries, or the U.S. Government with respect to certain countries, prohibiting or imposing substantial restrictions through capital controls and/or sanctions on foreign investing in the capital markets or certain industries in those countries. Capital controls and/or sanctions may include the prohibition of, or restrictions on, the ability to own or transfer currency, securities, derivatives or other assets and may also include retaliatory actions of one government against another government, such as seizure of assets. Any of these actions could severely impair a Fund’s ability to purchase, sell, transfer, receive, deliver or otherwise obtain exposure to foreign securities and assets, including the ability to transfer the Fund’s assets or income back into the United States, and could negatively impact the value and/or liquidity of such assets or otherwise adversely affect a Fund’s operations, causing the Fund to decline in value. Other potential foreign market risks include exchange controls, difficulties in pricing securities, defaults on foreign government securities, difficulties in enforcing favorable legal judgments in foreign courts, and political and social conditions, such as diplomatic relations, confiscatory taxation, expropriation, limitation on the removal of funds or assets, or imposition of (or change in) exchange control regulations. Legal remedies available to investors in certain foreign countries may be less extensive than those available to investors in the United States or other foreign countries. In addition, changes in government administrations or economic or monetary policies in the U.S. or abroad could result in appreciation or depreciation of portfolio securities and could favorably or adversely affect a Fund’s operations.
Foreign Economy Risk. The economies of certain foreign markets often do not compare favorably with that of the United States with respect to such issues as growth of gross national product, reinvestment of capital, resources, and balance of payments position. Certain such economies may rely heavily on particular industries or foreign capital and are more vulnerable to diplomatic developments, the imposition of economic sanctions against a particular country or countries, changes in international trading patterns, trade barriers, and other protectionist or retaliatory measures.
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Currency Risk and Exchange Risk. Because foreign securities generally are denominated and pay dividends or interest in foreign currencies, the value of a Fund that invests in foreign securities as measured in U.S. dollars will be affected favorably or unfavorably by changes in exchange rates. Generally, when the U.S. dollar rises in value against a foreign currency, a security denominated in that currency loses value because the currency is worth fewer U.S. dollars. Conversely, when the U.S. dollar decreases in value against a foreign currency, a security denominated in that currency gains value because the currency is worth more U.S. dollars. This risk, generally known as “currency risk,” means that a stronger U.S. dollar will reduce returns for U.S. investors while a weak U.S. dollar will increase those returns.
Governmental Supervision and Regulation/Accounting Standards. Many foreign governments supervise and regulate stock exchanges, brokers and the sale of securities less than does the United States. Some countries may not have laws to protect investors comparable to the U.S. securities laws. For example, some foreign countries may have no laws or rules against insider trading. Insider trading occurs when a person buys or sells a company’s securities based on nonpublic information about that company. Accounting standards in other countries are not necessarily the same as in the United States. If the accounting standards in another country do not require as much detail as U.S. accounting standards, it may be harder for Fund management to completely and accurately determine a company’s financial condition. In addition, the U.S. Government has from time to time in the past imposed restrictions, through penalties and otherwise, on foreign investments by U.S. investors such as the Fund. If such restrictions should be reinstituted, it might become necessary for the Fund to invest all or substantially all of its assets in U.S. securities. Also, brokerage commissions and other costs of buying or selling securities often are higher in foreign countries than they are in the United States. This reduces the amount the Fund can earn on its investments.
Certain Risks of Holding Fund Assets Outside the United States. A Fund generally holds its foreign securities and cash in foreign banks and securities depositories. Some foreign banks and securities depositories may be recently organized or new to the foreign custody business. In addition, there may be limited or no regulatory oversight over their operations. Also, the laws of certain countries may put limits on a Fund’s ability to recover its assets if a foreign bank or depository or issuer of a security or any of their agents goes bankrupt. In addition, it is often more expensive for a Fund to buy, sell and hold securities in certain foreign markets than in the United States. The increased expense of investing in foreign markets reduces the amount a Fund can earn on its investments and typically results in a higher operating expense ratio for the Fund as compared to investment companies that invest only in the United States.
Publicly Available Information. In general, less information is publicly available with respect to foreign issuers than is available with respect to U.S. companies. Most foreign companies are also not subject to the uniform accounting and financial reporting requirements applicable to issuers in the United States. While the volume of transactions effected on foreign stock exchanges has increased in recent years, it remains appreciably below that of the New York Stock Exchange. Accordingly, a Fund’s foreign investments may be less liquid than, and their prices may be more volatile than, comparable investments in securities in U.S. companies. In addition, there is generally less government supervision and regulation of securities exchanges, brokers and issuers in foreign countries than in the United States.
Settlement Risk. Settlement and clearance procedures in certain foreign markets differ significantly from those in the United States. Foreign settlement procedures and trade regulations also may involve certain risks (such as delays in payment for or delivery of securities) not typically generated by the settlement of U.S. investments.
Communications between the United States and emerging market countries may be unreliable, increasing the risk of delayed settlements or losses of security certificates in markets that still rely on physical settlement. Settlements in certain foreign countries at times have not kept pace with the number of securities transactions; these problems may make it difficult for a Fund to carry out transactions. If a Fund cannot settle or is delayed in settling a purchase of securities, it may miss attractive investment opportunities and certain of its assets may be uninvested with no return earned thereon for some period. If a Fund cannot settle or is delayed in settling a sale of securities, it may lose money if the value of the security then declines or, if it has contracted to sell the security to another party, the Fund could be liable to that party for any losses incurred.
Sovereign Debt. Investment in sovereign debt can involve a high degree of risk. The governmental entity that controls the repayment of sovereign debt may not be able or willing to repay the principal and/or interest when due in accordance with the terms of such debt. A governmental entity’s willingness or ability to repay principal and interest due in a timely manner may be affected by, among other factors, its cash flow situation, the extent of its foreign reserves, the availability of sufficient foreign exchange on the date a payment is due, the relative size of the debt service burden to the economy as a whole, the governmental entity’s policy towards the International Monetary Fund
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and the political constraints to which a governmental entity may be subject. Governmental entities may also be dependent on expected disbursements from foreign governments, multilateral agencies and others abroad to reduce principal and interest arrearages on their debt. The commitment on the part of these governments, agencies and others to make such disbursements may be conditioned on the implementation of economic reforms and/or economic performance and the timely service of such debtor’s obligations. Failure to implement such reforms, achieve such levels of economic performance or repay principal or interest when due may result in the cancellation of such third parties’ commitments to lend funds to the governmental entity, which may further impair such debtor’s ability or willingness to timely service its debts. Consequently, governmental entities may default on their sovereign debt.
Holders of sovereign debt may be requested to participate in the rescheduling of such debt and to extend further loans to governmental entities. In the event of a default by a governmental entity, there may be few or no effective legal remedies for collecting on such debt.
Withholding Tax Reclaims Risk. A Fund may file claims to recover foreign withholding taxes on dividend and interest income (if any) received from issuers in certain countries and capital gains on the disposition of stocks or securities where such withholding tax reclaim is possible. Whether or when a Fund will receive a withholding tax refund is within the control of the tax authorities in such countries. Where a Fund expects to recover withholding taxes, the net asset value of the Fund generally includes accruals for such tax refunds. Each Fund regularly evaluates the probability of recovery. If the likelihood of recovery materially decreases, due to, for example, a change in tax regulation or approach in the foreign country, accruals in a Fund’s net asset value for such refunds may be written down partially or in full, which will adversely affect the Fund’s net asset value. Shareholders in a Fund at the time an accrual is written down will bear the impact of the resulting reduction in net asset value regardless of whether they were shareholders during the accrual period. Conversely, if a Fund receives a tax refund that has not been previously accrued, shareholders in the Fund at the time of the successful recovery will benefit from the resulting increase in the Fund’s net asset value. Shareholders who sold their shares prior to such time will not benefit from such increase in the Fund’s net asset value.
Funding Agreements. Certain Funds may invest in Guaranteed Investment Contracts and similar funding agreements. In connection with these investments, a Fund makes cash contributions to a deposit fund of an insurance company’s general account. The insurance company then credits to the Fund on a monthly basis guaranteed interest, which is based on an index (such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”)). The funding agreements provide that this guaranteed interest will not be less than a certain minimum rate. The purchase price paid for a funding agreement becomes part of the general assets of the insurance company, and the contract is paid from the general assets of the insurance company. Generally, funding agreements are not assignable or transferable without the permission of the issuing insurance companies, and an active secondary market in some funding agreements does not currently exist.
Guarantees. A Fund may purchase securities which contain guarantees issued by an entity separate from the issuer of the security. Generally, the guarantor of a security (often an affiliate of the issuer) will fulfill an issuer’s payment obligations under a security if the issuer is unable to do so.
Illiquid Investments. Each Fund may not acquire any illiquid investment if, immediately after the acquisition, a Fund would have invested more than 15% of its net assets in illiquid investments. An illiquid investment is any investment that a Fund reasonably expects cannot be sold or disposed of in current market conditions in seven calendar days or less without the sale or disposition significantly changing the market value of the investment. Liquid investments may become illiquid after purchase by a Fund, particularly during periods of market turmoil. There can be no assurance that a security or instrument that is deemed to be liquid when purchased will continue to be liquid for as long as it is held by a Fund, and any security or instrument held by the Fund may be deemed an illiquid investment pursuant to the Fund’s liquidity risk management program. A Fund’s illiquid investments may reduce the returns of the Fund because it may be difficult to sell the illiquid investments at an advantageous time or price. In addition, if a Fund is limited in its ability to sell illiquid investments during periods when shareholders are redeeming their shares, the Fund will need to sell liquid securities to meet redemption requests and illiquid securities will become a larger portion of the Fund’s holdings. If illiquid investments exceed 15% of a Fund’s net assets, the Liquidity Rule (as defined below) and the Liquidity Program (as defined below) will require that certain remedial actions be taken. Illiquid investments may trade at a discount from comparable liquid investments. Investment of a Fund’s assets in illiquid investments may restrict the ability of the Fund to dispose of its investments in a timely fashion and for a fair price as well as its ability to take advantage of market opportunities. The risks associated with illiquidity will be particularly acute where a Fund’s operations require cash, such as when the Fund redeems shares or pays dividends,
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and could result in the Fund borrowing to meet short-term cash requirements or incurring capital losses on the sale of illiquid investments.
Index Funds
Tracking Error Risk. A Fund may be subject to tracking error, which is the divergence of the Fund’s performance from that of the Underlying Index. Tracking error may occur because of differences between the securities and other instruments held in the Fund’s portfolio and those included in the Underlying Index, pricing differences (including, as applicable, differences between a security’s price at the local market close and the Fund’s valuation of a security at the time of calculation of the Fund’s net asset value), differences in transaction costs incurred by the Fund, the Fund’s holding of uninvested cash, differences in timing of the accrual of or the valuation of dividends or other distributions, interest, the requirements to maintain pass-through tax treatment, portfolio transactions carried out to minimize the distribution of capital gains to shareholders, changes to the Underlying Index or the costs to the Fund of complying with various new or existing regulatory requirements. These risks may be heightened during times of increased market volatility or other unusual market conditions. In addition, tracking error may result because the Fund incurs fees and expenses, while the Underlying Index does not.
When an issuer is introduced by an index provider into an index tracked by a Fund, BFA may conduct an analysis on such issuer’s securities to identify and screen for outlier high risk behavior (such as rapid or unusual price growth that does not appear to be supported by publicly available information on the business and assets of the issuer, unusual or significant short interest or lending activity, negative sentiment, suspended trading or incorrect free-float calculations, which could be indicators of possible irregularities, miscalculations or even fraud). If it identifies such behavior, BFA may, where appropriate, alert the index provider as to the alleged issue. The index provider has sole discretion for the determination as to whether to continue to include the issuer’s securities in the rebalancing of its index. If the securities continue to be included in the index, BFA may underweight or exclude such securities from a Fund’s portfolio and, if it does so, such Fund will be subject to increased tracking error due to the divergence in the securities included in its portfolio from its underlying index. BFA’s underweighting or excluding such securities may result in a decline in a Fund’s net asset value. The application of the abovementioned analysis and screening to a Fund and its Underlying Index is in the sole discretion of BFA and its affiliates (without any guarantees). The analysis and screening may not exclude any or all high risk securities from an Underlying Index or a Fund’s portfolio, and the inclusion of such securities will result in an adverse impact to the Fund’s net asset value if one or more such securities declines in value.
S&P 500® Index (“S&P 500”). “Standard & Poor’s®,” “S&P®,” “S&P 500®,” “Standard & Poor’s 500,” and “500” are trademarks of S&P Global Inc. and have been licensed for use by certain mutual funds sponsored and advised by BlackRock or its affiliates (“BlackRock Funds”). No Fund is sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by S&P, a division of S&P Global Inc. S&P makes no representation regarding the advisability of investing in any Fund. S&P makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, to the owners of shares of a Fund or any member of the public regarding the advisability of investing in securities generally or in a Fund particularly or the ability of the S&P 500 to track general stock market performance. S&P’s only relationship to certain Funds is the licensing of certain trademarks and trade names of S&P and of the S&P 500 which is determined, composed and calculated by S&P without regard to the Funds. S&P has no obligation to take the needs of a Fund or the owners of shares of a Fund into consideration in determining, composing or calculating the S&P 500. S&P is not responsible for and has not participated in the determination of the prices and amount of any Fund or the timing of the issuance or sale of shares of a Fund or in the determination or calculation of the equation by which a Fund is to be converted into cash. S&P has no obligation or liability in connection with the administration, marketing or trading of any Fund.
S&P does not guarantee the accuracy and/or the completeness of the S&P 500 Index or any data included therein, and S&P shall have no liability for any errors, omissions, or interruptions therein. S&P makes no warranty, express or implied, as to results to be obtained by a Fund, owners of shares of a Fund, or any other person or entity from the use of the S&P 500 Index or any data included therein. S&P makes no express or implied warranties and expressly disclaims all warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose or use with respect to the S&P 500 Index or any data included therein. Without limiting any of the foregoing, in no event shall S&P have any liability for any special, punitive, indirect, or consequential damages (including lost profits), even if notified of the possibility of such damages.
Russell® Indexes. No Fund is promoted, sponsored or endorsed by, nor in any way affiliated with Russell Investments. Russell Investments is not responsible for and has not reviewed any Fund nor any associated literature or publications and Russell Investments makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, as to their accuracy, or completeness, or otherwise.
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Russell Investments reserves the right, at any time and without notice, to alter, amend, terminate or in any way change a Russell Index. Russell Investments has no obligation to take the needs of any particular Fund or its participants or any other product or person into consideration in determining, composing or calculating the Russell Index.
Russell Investments’ publication of the Russell Indexes in no way suggests or implies an opinion by Russell Investments as to the attractiveness or appropriateness of investment in any or all securities upon which the Russell Indexes is based. Russell Investments makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or otherwise of the Russell Indexes or any data included in the Russell Indexes. Russell Investments makes no representation or warranty regarding the use, or the results of use, of the Russell Indexes or any data included therein, or any security (or combination thereof) comprising the Russell Indexes. Russell Investments makes no other express or implied warranty, and expressly disclaims any warranty, of any kind, including, without means of limitation, any warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose with respect to the Russell Indexes or any data or any security (or combination thereof) included therein.
MSCI Indexes. The MSCI Europe, Australasia and Far East (Capitalization Weighted) Index (“EAFE Index”) and the MSCI All-Country World ex-US Index (“ACWI ex-US Index” and together with the EAFE Index, the “MSCI Indexes” and individually an “MSCI Index”) are the exclusive property of MSCI, Inc. (“MSCI”). The EAFE Index and ACWI ex-US Index are service marks of MSCI and have been licensed for use by the Manager and its affiliates.
No Fund is sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by MSCI. MSCI makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, to the owners of shares of a Fund or any member of the public regarding the advisability of investing in securities generally or in a Fund particularly or the ability of an MSCI Index to track general stock market performance. MSCI is the licensor of certain trademarks, service marks and trade names of MSCI and of the MSCI Indexes. MSCI has no obligation to take the needs of any Fund or the owners of shares of a Fund into consideration in determining, composing or calculating an MSCI Index. MSCI is not responsible for and has not participated in the determination of the timing of, prices at, or quantities of shares of any Fund to be issued or in the determination or calculation of the equation by which the shares of a Fund are redeemable for cash. MSCI has no obligation or liability to owners of shares of a Fund in connection with the administration, marketing or trading of the Fund.
Although MSCI shall obtain information for inclusion in or for use in the calculation of an MSCI Index from sources which MSCI considers reliable, MSCI does not guarantee the accuracy and/or the completeness of the MSCI Index or any data included therein. MSCI makes no warranty, express or implied, as to results to be obtained by licensee, licensee’s customers and counterparties, owners of shares of a Fund, or any other person or entity from the use of an MSCI Index or any data included therein in connection with the rights licensed hereunder or for any other use. MSCI makes no express or implied warranties, and hereby expressly disclaims all warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose with respect to an MSCI Index or any data included therein. Without limiting any of the foregoing, in no event shall MSCI have any liability for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential or any other damages (including lost profits) even if notified of the possibility of such damages.
Financial Times Stock Exchange (“FTSE”) Indexes. No Fund is promoted, sponsored or endorsed by, nor in any way affiliated with FTSE. FTSE is not responsible for and has not reviewed any Fund nor any associated literature or publications and FTSE makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, as to their accuracy, or completeness, or otherwise.
FTSE reserves the right, at any time and without notice, to alter, amend, terminate or in any way change a FTSE Index. FTSE has no obligation to take the needs of any particular Fund or its participants or any other product or person into consideration in determining, composing or calculating the FTSE Index.
Bloomberg Indexes. No Fund is promoted, sponsored or endorsed by, nor in any way affiliated with Bloomberg Finance L.P. and its affiliates (collectively, “Bloomberg”). Bloomberg is not responsible for nor has it reviewed any Fund nor any associated literature or publications, and Bloomberg makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, as to their accuracy, or completeness, or otherwise.
Bloomberg reserves the right, at any time and without notice, to alter, amend, terminate or in any way change a Bloomberg Index. Bloomberg has no obligation to take the needs of any particular Fund or its participants or any other product or person into consideration in determining, composing or calculating a Bloomberg Index.
ICE BofA Indexes. No Fund is promoted, sponsored or endorsed by, nor in any way affiliated with Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. and its affiliates (collectively, “ICE”) or Bank of America or its affiliates (collectively, “BofA”). BofA is not the issuer or producer of the ICE BofA Indices, and its name is a trademark and service mark of its owner used under license. Neither ICE nor BofA is responsible for or has reviewed any Fund nor any associated literature or
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publications and ICE and BofA make no representation or warranty, express or implied, as to their accuracy, or completeness, or otherwise.
ICE reserves the right, at any time and without notice, to alter, amend, terminate or in any way change an ICE BofA Index. ICE has no obligation to take the needs of any particular Fund or its participants or any other product or person into consideration in determining, composing or calculating an ICE BofA Index.
Indexed and Inverse Securities. A Fund may invest in securities that provide a potential return based on a particular index of value or interest rates. For example, a Fund may invest in securities that pay interest based on an index of interest rates. The principal amount payable upon maturity of certain securities also may be based on the value of the index. To the extent a Fund invests in these types of securities, the Fund’s return on such securities will be subject to risk with respect to the value of the particular index: that is, if the value of the index falls, the value of the indexed securities owned by the Fund will fall. Interest and principal payable on certain securities may also be based on relative changes among particular indices. A Fund may also invest in so-called “inverse floating obligations” or “residual interest bonds” on which the interest rates vary inversely with a floating rate (which may be reset periodically by a Dutch auction, a remarketing agent, or by reference to a short-term tax-exempt interest rate index). A Fund may purchase synthetically-created inverse floating rate bonds evidenced by custodial or trust receipts. Generally, income on inverse floating rate bonds will decrease when interest rates increase, and will increase when interest rates decrease. Such securities have the effect of providing a degree of investment leverage, since they may increase or decrease in value in response to changes, as an illustration, in market interest rates at a rate that is a multiple of the rate at which fixed-rate securities increase or decrease in response to such changes. As a result, the market values of such securities will generally be more volatile than the market values of fixed-rate securities. To seek to limit the volatility of these securities, a Fund may purchase inverse floating obligations that have shorter-term maturities or that contain limitations on the extent to which the interest rate may vary. Certain investments in such obligations may be illiquid. The Manager believes that indexed and inverse floating obligations represent flexible portfolio management instruments for a Fund that allow the Fund to seek potential investment rewards, hedge other portfolio positions or vary the degree of investment leverage relatively efficiently under different market conditions. A Fund may invest in indexed and inverse securities for hedging purposes or to seek to increase returns. When used for hedging purposes, indexed and inverse securities involve correlation risk. Furthermore, where such a security includes a contingent liability, in the event of an adverse movement in the underlying index or interest rate, a Fund may be required to pay substantial additional margin to maintain the position.
The Funds may invest up to 10% of their total assets in leveraged inverse floating rate debt instruments (“inverse floaters”). Inverse floaters are securities the potential of which is inversely related to changes in interest rates. In general, the return on inverse floaters will decrease when short-term interest rates increase and increase when short-term rates decrease. Municipal tender option bonds, both taxable and tax-exempt, which may include inverse floating rate debt instruments, (including residual interests thereon) are excluded from this 10% limitation.
Inflation Risk. Like all mutual funds, the Funds are subject to inflation risk. Inflation risk is the risk that the present value of assets or income from investments will be less in the future as inflation decreases the value of money. As inflation increases, the present value of a Fund’s assets can decline as can the value of a Fund’s distributions.
Initial Public Offering (“IPO”) Risk. The volume of initial public offerings and the levels at which the newly issued stocks trade in the secondary market are affected by the performance of the stock market overall. If initial public offerings are brought to the market, availability may be limited and a Fund may not be able to buy any shares at the offering price, or if it is able to buy shares, it may not be able to buy as many shares at the offering price as it would like. In addition, the prices of securities involved in initial public offerings are often subject to greater and more unpredictable price changes than more established stocks. IPOs have the potential to produce substantial gains. There is no assurance that any Fund will have access to profitable IPOs and therefore investors should not rely on any past gains from IPOs as an indication of future performance. The investment performance of a Fund during periods when it is unable to invest significantly or at all in IPOs may be lower than during periods when it is able to do so. In addition, as a Fund increases in size, the impact of IPOs on its performance will generally decrease. Securities issued in IPOs are subject to many of the same risks as investing in companies with smaller market capitalizations. Securities issued in IPOs have no trading history, and information about the companies may be available for very limited periods.
Interfund Lending Program. Pursuant to an exemptive order granted by the SEC (the “IFL Order”), a Fund, to the extent permitted by its investment policies and restrictions and subject to meeting the conditions of the IFL Order, has the ability to lend money to, and borrow money from, another Fund pursuant to a master interfund lending agreement (the “Interfund Lending Program”). Under the Interfund Lending Program, the Funds may lend or borrow
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money for temporary purposes directly to or from other Funds (an “Interfund Loan”). All Interfund Loans would consist only of uninvested cash reserves that the lending Fund otherwise would invest in short-term repurchase agreements or other short-term instruments. Although Funds that are money market funds may, to the extent permitted by their investment policies, participate in the Interfund Lending Program as borrowers or lenders, they typically will not need to participate as borrowers because they are required to comply with the liquidity provisions of Rule 2a-7 under the Investment Company Act.
If a Fund has outstanding bank borrowings, any Interfund Loans to the Fund would: (a) be at an interest rate equal to or lower than that of any outstanding bank loan, (b) be secured at least on an equal priority basis with at least an equivalent percentage of collateral to loan value as any outstanding bank loan that requires collateral, (c) have a maturity no longer than any outstanding bank loan (and in any event not over seven days), and (d) provide that, if an event of default occurs under any agreement evidencing an outstanding bank loan to the Fund, that event of default will automatically (without need for action or notice by the lending Fund) constitute an immediate event of default under the interfund lending agreement, entitling the lending Fund to call the Interfund Loan immediately (and exercise all rights with respect to any collateral), and cause such call to be made if the lending bank exercises its right to call its loan under its agreement with the borrowing Fund.
A Fund may borrow on an unsecured basis through the Interfund Lending Program only if its outstanding borrowings from all sources immediately after the borrowing total 10% or less of its total assets, provided that if the Fund has a secured loan outstanding from any other lender, including but not limited to another Fund, the Fund’s borrowing will be secured on at least an equal priority basis with at least an equivalent percentage of collateral to loan value as any outstanding loan that requires collateral. If a borrowing Fund’s total outstanding borrowings immediately after an Interfund Loan under the Interfund Lending Program exceed 10% of its total assets, the Fund may borrow through the Interfund Lending Program on a secured basis only. A Fund may not borrow under the Interfund Lending Program or from any other source if its total outstanding borrowings immediately after the borrowing would be more than 33  13% of its total assets or any lower threshold provided for by the Fund’s investment restrictions.
No Fund may lend to another Fund through the Interfund Lending Program if the loan would cause the lending Fund’s aggregate outstanding loans through the Interfund Lending Program to exceed 15% of its current net assets at the time of the loan. A Fund’s Interfund Loans to any one Fund shall not exceed 5% of the lending Fund’s net assets. The duration of Interfund Loans will be limited to the time required to receive payment for securities sold, but in no event more than seven days, and for purposes of this condition, loans effected within seven days of each other will be treated as separate loan transactions. Each Interfund Loan may be called on one business day’s notice by a lending Fund and may be repaid on any day by a borrowing Fund.
The limitations described above and the other conditions of the IFL Order permitting interfund lending are designed to minimize the risks associated with interfund lending for both the lending Fund and the borrowing Fund. However, no borrowing or lending activity is without risk. When a Fund borrows money from another Fund under the Interfund Lending Program, there is a risk that the Interfund Loan could be called on one day’s notice, in which case the borrowing Fund may have to seek to borrow from a bank, which would likely involve higher rates, seek an Interfund Loan from another Fund, or liquidate portfolio securities if no lending sources are available to meet its liquidity needs. Interfund Loans are subject to the risk that the borrowing Fund could be unable to repay the loan when due, and a delay in repayment could result in a lost opportunity by the lending Fund or force the lending Fund to borrow or liquidate securities to meet its liquidity needs. No Fund may borrow more than the amount permitted by its investment restrictions. There can be no assurance that an interfund loan will be available to a borrowing or lending Fund.
Investment in Emerging Markets.
General.
Certain Funds may invest in the securities of issuers domiciled in various countries with emerging capital markets. Unless otherwise provided in a Fund’s Prospectus, a country with an emerging capital market is any country that is (i) generally recognized to be an emerging market country by the international financial community, such as the International Finance Corporation, or determined by the World Bank to have a low, middle or middle upper income economy; (ii) classified by the United Nations or its authorities to be developing; and/or (iii) included in a broad-based index that is generally representative of emerging markets. Countries with emerging markets can be found in regions such as Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa.
Investments in the securities of issuers domiciled in countries with emerging capital markets involve certain additional risks that do not generally apply to investments in securities of issuers in more developed capital markets,
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such as (i) low or non-existent trading volume, resulting in market illiquidity and increased volatility in prices for such securities, as compared to securities of comparable issuers in more developed capital markets; (ii) uncertain national policies and social, political and economic instability, increasing the potential for expropriation of assets, confiscatory taxation, high rates of inflation or unfavorable diplomatic developments; (iii) possible fluctuations in exchange rates, differing legal systems and the existence or possible imposition of exchange controls, custodial restrictions or other foreign or U.S. governmental laws or restrictions applicable to such investments; (iv) national policies that may limit a Fund’s investment opportunities such as restrictions on investment in issuers or industries deemed sensitive to national interests; and (v) the lack or relatively early development of legal structures governing private and foreign investments and private property. In addition to withholding taxes on investment income, some countries with emerging markets may impose differential capital gains taxes on foreign investors.
Political and economic structures in emerging market countries may be undergoing significant evolution and rapid development, and these countries may lack the social, political and economic stability characteristic of more developed countries. In such a dynamic environment, there can be no assurance that any or all of these capital markets will continue to present viable investment opportunities for a Fund. In the past, governments of such nations have expropriated substantial amounts of private property, and most claims of the property owners have never been fully settled. There is no assurance that such expropriations will not reoccur. In such an event, it is possible that a Fund could lose the entire value of its investments in the affected market. As a result the risks described above, including the risks of nationalization or expropriation of assets, may be heightened. In addition, unanticipated political or social developments may affect the value of investments in these countries and the availability to a Fund of additional investments. The small size and inexperience of the securities markets in certain of these countries and the limited volume of trading in securities in these countries may make investments in the countries illiquid and more volatile than investments in Japan or most Western European countries.
Also, there may be less publicly available information about issuers in emerging markets than would be available about issuers in more developed capital markets, and such issuers may not be subject to accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards and requirements comparable to those to which U.S. companies are subject. In certain countries with emerging capital markets, reporting standards vary widely. As a result, traditional investment measurements used in the United States, such as price/earnings ratios, may not be applicable. Emerging market securities may be substantially less liquid than, and more volatile than, those of mature markets, and company shares may be held by a limited number of persons. This may adversely affect the timing and pricing of the Fund’s acquisition or disposal of securities.
Practices in relation to settlement of securities transactions in emerging markets involve higher risks than those in developed markets, in part because a Fund will need to use brokers and counterparties that are less well capitalized, and custody and registration of assets in some countries may be unreliable. The possibility of fraud, negligence, undue influence being exerted by the issuer or refusal to recognize ownership exists in some emerging markets, and, along with other factors, could result in ownership registration being completely lost. A Fund would absorb any loss resulting from such registration problems and may have no successful claim for compensation.
Investment in non-dollar denominated securities including securities from issuers located in emerging market countries may be on either a currency hedged or unhedged basis, and the Funds may hold from time to time various foreign currencies pending investment or conversion into U.S. dollars. Some of these instruments may have the characteristics of futures contracts. In addition, certain Funds may engage in foreign currency exchange transactions to seek to protect against changes in the level of future exchange rates which would adversely affect the Fund’s performance. These investments and transactions involving foreign securities, currencies, options (including options that relate to foreign currencies), futures, hedging and cross-hedging are described under “Derivatives.”
Risks of Investing in Asia-Pacific Countries. In addition to the risks of foreign investing and the risks of investing in developing markets, the developing market Asia-Pacific countries in which a Fund may invest are subject to certain additional or specific risks. Certain Funds may make substantial investments in Asia-Pacific countries. In many of these markets, there is a high concentration of market capitalization and trading volume in a small number of issuers representing a limited number of industries, as well as a high concentration of investors and financial intermediaries. Many of these markets also may be affected by developments with respect to more established markets in the region such as in Japan and Hong Kong. Brokers in developing market Asia-Pacific countries typically are fewer in number and less well capitalized than brokers in the United States. These factors, combined with the U.S. regulatory requirements for open-end investment companies and the restrictions on foreign investment discussed below, result in potentially fewer investment opportunities for a Fund and may have an adverse impact on the investment performance of the Fund.
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Many of the developing market Asia-Pacific countries may be subject to a greater degree of economic, political and social instability than is the case in the United States and Western European countries. Such instability may result from, among other things: (i) authoritarian governments or military involvement in political and economic decision-making, including changes in government through extra-constitutional means; (ii) popular unrest associated with demands for improved political, economic and social conditions; (iii) internal insurgencies; (iv) hostile relations with neighboring countries; and (v) ethnic, religious and racial disaffection. In addition, the governments of many of such countries, such as Indonesia, have a substantial role in regulating and supervising the economy. Another risk common to most such countries is that the economy is heavily export oriented and, accordingly, is dependent upon international trade. The existence of overburdened infrastructure and obsolete financial systems also presents risks in certain countries, as do environmental problems. Certain economies also depend to a significant degree upon exports of primary commodities and, therefore, are vulnerable to changes in commodity prices that, in turn, may be affected by a variety of factors.
The legal systems in certain developing market Asia-Pacific countries also may have an adverse impact on the Fund. For example, while the potential liability of a shareholder in a U.S. corporation with respect to acts of the corporation is generally limited to the amount of the shareholder’s investment, the notion of limited liability is less clear in certain emerging market Asia-Pacific countries. Similarly, the rights of investors in developing market Asia-Pacific companies may be more limited than those of shareholders of U.S. corporations. It may be difficult or impossible to obtain and/or enforce a judgment in a developing market Asia-Pacific country.
Governments of many developing market Asia-Pacific countries have exercised and continue to exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. In certain cases, the government owns or controls many companies, including the largest in the country. Accordingly, government actions in the future could have a significant effect on economic conditions in developing market Asia-Pacific countries, which could affect private sector companies and a Fund itself, as well as the value of securities in the Fund’s portfolio. In addition, economic statistics of developing market Asia-Pacific countries may be less reliable than economic statistics of more developed nations.
In addition to the relative lack of publicly available information about developing market Asia-Pacific issuers and the possibility that such issuers may not be subject to the same accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards as U.S. companies, inflation accounting rules in some developing market Asia-Pacific countries require companies that keep accounting records in the local currency, for both tax and accounting purposes, to restate certain assets and liabilities on the company’s balance sheet in order to express items in terms of currency of constant purchasing power. Inflation accounting may indirectly generate losses or profits for certain developing market Asia-Pacific companies.
Satisfactory custodial services for investment securities may not be available in some developing Asia-Pacific countries, which may result in the Fund incurring additional costs and delays in providing transportation and custody services for such securities outside such countries.
Certain developing Asia-Pacific countries, such as the Philippines, India and Turkey, are especially large debtors to commercial banks and foreign governments.
On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake and resulting tsunami struck northeastern Japan causing major damage along the coast, including damage to nuclear power plants in the region. Future similar disasters, and the resulting damage, could have a severe and negative impact on a Fund’s investment portfolio and, in the longer term, could impair the ability of issuers in which the Fund invests to conduct their businesses in the manner normally conducted.
Fund management may determine that, notwithstanding otherwise favorable investment criteria, it may not be practicable or appropriate to invest in a particular developing Asia-Pacific country. A Fund may invest in countries in which foreign investors, including management of the Fund, have had no or limited prior experience.
Restrictions on Foreign Investments in Asia-Pacific Countries. Some developing Asia-Pacific countries prohibit or impose substantial restrictions on investments in their capital markets, particularly their equity markets, by foreign entities such as a Fund. As illustrations, certain countries may require governmental approval prior to investments by foreign persons or limit the amount of investment by foreign persons in a particular company or limit the investment by foreign persons to only a specific class of securities of a company which may have less advantageous terms (including price and shareholder rights) than securities of the company available for purchase by nationals. There can be no assurance that a Fund will be able to obtain required governmental approvals in a timely manner. In addition, changes to restrictions on foreign ownership of securities subsequent to a Fund’s purchase of such securities may
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have an adverse effect on the value of such shares. Certain countries may restrict investment opportunities in issuers or industries deemed important to national interests.
The manner in which foreign investors may invest in companies in certain developing Asia-Pacific countries, as well as limitations on such investments, also may have an adverse impact on the operations of a Fund. For example, a Fund may be required in certain of such countries to invest initially through a local broker or other entity and then have the shares purchased re-registered in the name of the Fund. Re-registration may in some instances not be able to occur on a timely basis, resulting in a delay during which a Fund may be denied certain of its rights as an investor, including rights as to dividends or to be made aware of certain corporate actions. There also may be instances where a Fund places a purchase order but is subsequently informed, at the time of re-registration, that the permissible allocation of the investment to foreign investors has been filled, depriving the Fund of the ability to make its desired investment at that time.
Substantial limitations may exist in certain countries with respect to a Fund’s ability to repatriate investment income, capital or the proceeds of sales of securities by foreign investors. A Fund could be adversely affected by delays in, or a refusal to grant, any required governmental approval for repatriation of capital, as well as by the application to the Fund of any restrictions on investments. It is possible that certain countries may impose currency controls or other restrictions relating to their currencies or to securities of issuers in those countries. To the extent that such restrictions have the effect of making certain investments illiquid, securities may not be available for sale to meet redemptions. Depending on a variety of financial factors, the percentage of a Fund’s portfolio subject to currency controls may increase. In the event other countries impose similar controls, the portion of the Fund’s assets that may be used to meet redemptions may be further decreased. Even where there is no outright restriction on repatriation of capital, the mechanics of repatriation may affect certain aspects of the operations of a Fund (for example, if funds may be withdrawn only in certain currencies and/or only at an exchange rate established by the government).
In certain countries, banks or other financial institutions may be among the leading companies or have actively traded securities available for investment. The Investment Company Act restricts a Fund’s investments in any equity securities of an issuer that, in its most recent fiscal year, derived more than 15% of its revenues from “securities related activities,” as defined by the rules thereunder. These provisions may restrict a Fund’s investments in certain foreign banks and other financial institutions.
Political and economic structures in emerging market countries may be undergoing significant evolution and rapid development, and these countries may lack the social, political and economic stability characteristic of more developed countries. Some of these countries may have in the past failed to recognize private property rights and have at times nationalized or expropriated the assets of private companies. As a result the risks described above, including the risks of nationalization or expropriation of assets, may be heightened. In addition, unanticipated political or social developments may affect the value of investments in these countries and the availability to a Fund of additional investments in emerging market countries. The small size and inexperience of the securities markets in certain of these countries and the limited volume of trading in securities in these countries may make investments in the countries illiquid and more volatile than investments in Japan or most Western European countries. There may be little financial or accounting information available with respect to issuers located in certain emerging market countries, and it may be difficult to assess the value or prospects of an investment in such issuers.
The expense ratios of the Funds investing significantly in foreign securities can be expected to be higher than those of Funds investing primarily in domestic securities. The costs attributable to investing abroad are usually higher for several reasons, such as the higher cost of custody of foreign securities, higher commissions paid on comparable transactions on foreign markets and additional costs arising from delays in settlements of transactions involving foreign securities.
Risks of Investments in Russia. A Fund may invest a portion of its assets in securities issued by companies located in Russia. The Russian securities market suffers from a variety of problems described above in “Investment in Emerging Markets” not encountered in more developed markets. The Russian securities market is relatively new, and a substantial portion of securities transactions are privately negotiated outside of stock exchanges. The inexperience of the Russian securities market and the limited volume of trading in securities in the market may make obtaining accurate prices on portfolio securities from independent sources more difficult than in more developed markets.
Because of the recent formation of the Russian securities markets, the underdeveloped state of Russia’s banking and telecommunication system and the legal and regulatory framework in Russia, settlement, clearing and registration of securities transactions are subject to additional risks. Prior to 2013, there was no central registration
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system for equity share registration in Russia and registration was carried out either by the issuers themselves or by registrars located throughout Russia. These registrars may not have been subject to effective state supervision or licensed with any governmental entity. In 2013, Russia established the National Settlement Depository (“NSD”) as a recognized central securities depository, and title to Russian equities is now based on the records of the NSD and not on the records of the local registrars. The implementation of the NSD is generally expected to decrease the risk of loss in connection with recording and transferring title to securities; however, loss may still occur. Additionally, issuers and registrars remain prominent in the validation and approval of documentation requirements for corporate action processing in Russia, and there remain inconsistent market standards in the Russian market with respect to the completion and submission of corporate action elections. To the extent that a Fund suffers a loss relating to title or corporate actions relating to its portfolio securities, it may be difficult for the Fund to enforce its rights or otherwise remedy the loss.
In addition, Russia also may attempt to assert its influence in the region through economic or even military measures, as it did with Georgia in the summer of 2008 and the Ukraine in 2014 and 2022. Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The extent and duration of the military action, resulting sanctions and resulting future market disruptions, including declines in its stock markets and the value of the ruble against the U.S. dollar, are impossible to predict, but could be significant. Any such disruptions caused by Russian military action or other actions (including cyberattacks and espionage) or resulting actual and threatened responses to such activity, including purchasing and financing restrictions, boycotts or changes in consumer or purchaser preferences, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Russian government, Russian companies or Russian individuals, including politicians, may impact Russia’s economy and Russian issuers of securities in which the Fund invests. Actual and threatened responses to such activity, including purchasing restrictions, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Russian government or Russian companies, may impact Russia’s economy and Russian issuers of securities in which the Fund invests. Actual and threatened responses to such military action may also impact the markets for certain Russian commodities, such as oil and natural gas, as well as other sectors of the Russian economy, and may likely have collateral impacts on such sectors globally.
Governments in the United States and many other countries (collectively, the “Sanctioning Bodies”) have imposed economic sanctions, which can consist of prohibiting certain securities trades, certain private transactions in the energy sector, asset freezes and prohibition of all business, against certain Russian individuals, including politicians, and Russian corporate and banking entities. The Sanctioning Bodies, or others, could also institute broader sanctions on Russia, including banning Russia from global payments systems that facilitate cross-border payments. These sanctions, or even the threat of further sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Russian securities, a weakening of the ruble or other adverse consequences to the Russian economy. These sanctions could also result in the immediate freeze of Russian securities and/or funds invested in prohibited assets, impairing the ability of a Fund to buy, sell, receive or deliver those securities and/or assets. Sanctions could also result in Russia taking counter measures or retaliatory actions which may further impair the value and liquidity of Russian securities.
Risks of Investing in Saudi Arabia. The ability of foreign investors (such as a Fund) to invest in Saudi Arabian issuers is new and untested. Such ability could be restricted or revoked by the Saudi Arabian government at any time, and unforeseen risks could materialize due to foreign ownership in such securities. In addition, the Capital Market Authority (“CMA”) places investment limitations on the ownership of Saudi Arabian issuers by foreign investors, including a limitation on a Fund’s ownership of any single issuer listed on the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange, which may prevent a Fund from investing in accordance with its strategy and contribute to tracking error against the Underlying Index. These restrictions may be changed or new restrictions, such as licensing requirements, special approvals or additional foreign taxes, may be instituted at any time. A Fund may not be able to obtain or maintain any such licenses or approvals and may not be able to buy and sell securities at full value. Major disruptions or regulatory changes could occur in the Saudi Arabian market, any of which could negatively impact a Fund. These risks may be exacerbated, compared to more developed markets, given the limited history of foreign investment in the Saudi Arabian market. Investments in Saudi Arabia may also be subject to loss due to expropriation or nationalization of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on additional foreign investments and repatriation of capital. Such heightened risks may include, among others, restrictions on and government intervention in international trade, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision making, armed conflict, crime and instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socioeconomic unrest. Saudi Arabia has privatized, or has begun the process of privatizing, certain entities and industries. Newly privatized companies may face strong competition from government-sponsored competitors that have not been privatized. In some instances, investors in newly privatized entities have suffered losses due to the inability of the newly privatized entities to adjust quickly to a competitive environment or changing regulatory and legal standards or, in some cases,
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due to re-nationalization of such privatized entities. There is no assurance that similar losses will not recur. Further, under income tax laws imposed by the Department of Zakat and Income Tax, dividends paid by a Saudi Arabian company to foreign stockholders are generally subject to a 5% withholding tax (different tax rates may apply pursuant to an applicable treaty). Saudi Arabia is highly reliant on income from the sale of petroleum and trade with other countries involved in the sale of petroleum, and its economy is therefore vulnerable to changes in foreign currency values and the market for petroleum. As global demand for petroleum fluctuates, Saudi Arabia may be significantly impacted.
Like most Middle Eastern governments, the government of Saudi Arabia exercises substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. Although liberalization in the wider economy is underway, in many areas it has lagged significantly: restrictions on foreign ownership persist, and the government has an ownership stake in many key industries. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia has historically experienced strained relations with economic partners worldwide, including other countries in the Middle East due to geopolitical events. Incidents involving a Middle Eastern country’s or the region’s security, including terrorism, may cause uncertainty in their markets and may adversely affect its economy and a Fund’s investments. Governmental actions in the future could have a significant effect on economic conditions in Saudi Arabia, which could affect private sector companies and a Fund, as well as the value of securities in a Fund’s portfolio. Any economic sanctions on Saudi Arabian individuals or Saudi Arabian corporate entities, or even the threat of sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Saudi Arabian securities, a weakening of the Saudi riyal or other adverse consequences to the Saudi Arabian economy. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s economy relies heavily on cheap, foreign labor, and changes in the availability of this labor supply could have an adverse effect on the economy.
The securities markets in Saudi Arabia may not be as developed as those in other countries. As a result, securities markets in Saudi Arabia are subject to greater risks associated with market volatility, lower market capitalization, lower trading volume, illiquidity, inflation, greater price fluctuations, uncertainty regarding the existence of trading markets, governmental control and heavy regulation of labor and industry. Shares of certain Saudi Arabian companies tend to trade less frequently than those of companies on exchanges in more developed markets. Such infrequent trading may adversely affect the pricing of these securities and a Fund’s ability to sell these securities in the future. Current regulations in Saudi Arabian markets may require a Fund to execute trades of securities through a single broker. As a result, the Adviser will have less flexibility to choose among brokers on behalf of a Fund than is typically the case for investment managers.
Although the political situation in Saudi Arabia is largely stable, Saudi Arabia has historically experienced political instability, and there remains the possibility that the stability will not hold in the future or that instability in the larger Middle East region could adversely impact the economy of Saudi Arabia. Instability may be caused by military developments, government interventions in the marketplace, terrorism, extremist attitudes, attempted social or political reforms, religious differences, or other factors. Additionally, anti-Western views held by certain groups in the Middle East may influence government policies regarding foreign investment. Further developments in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries may affect these attitudes and policies. The U.S. is a significant, and in some cases the most significant, trading partner of, or foreign investor in, Saudi Arabia. As a result, economic conditions of Saudi Arabia may be particularly affected by changes in the U.S. economy. A decrease in U.S. imports or exports, new trade and financial regulations or tariffs, changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate or an economic slowdown in the U.S. may have a material adverse effect on the economic conditions of Saudi Arabia and, as a result, securities to which the Fund has exposure. Political instability in North Africa and the larger Middle East region has caused significant disruptions to many industries. Continued political and social unrest in these areas may negatively affect the value of securities in a Fund’s portfolio.
Certain issuers located in Saudi Arabia may operate in, or have dealings with, countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, an issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer which operates in, or has dealings with, such countries. A Fund, as an investor in such issuers will be indirectly subject to those risks.
Risks of Investing in Venezuela. Investment in Venezuela may subject a Fund to legal, regulatory, political, currency, security, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets and economic risk specific to Venezuela. Venezuela is extremely well endowed with natural resources and its economy is heavily dependent on export of natural resources to key trading partners. According to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (“OPEC”), Venezuela boasts the world’s largest oil reserves. According to an industry report, Venezuela also has the continent’s largest natural gas reserves at an estimated 152 trillion cubic meters. Any act of terrorism, an armed
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conflict or a breakdown of a key trading relationship that disrupts the production or export of natural resources will likely negatively affect the Venezuelan economy. The government continues to control key sectors of the economy, including upstream oil and gas production, and has sought to increase its role in key sectors, such as telecommunications and steel. Meanwhile, ambiguities in the investment environment remain, such as continued high levels of bureaucracy and corruption, large macroeconomic imbalances, and political and policy uncertainty. Friction continues between the governments of the U.S. and Venezuela. The U.S. has imposed economic sanctions, which consist of asset freezes and sectoral sanctions, on certain Venezuelan individuals and Venezuelan corporate entities, and on the Venezuelan government. The U.S. could also institute broader sanctions on Venezuela. These sanctions, or even the threat of further sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Venezuelan securities, a weakening of the bolivar or other adverse consequences to the Venezuelan economy. These sanctions impair the ability of a Fund to buy, sell, receive or deliver those securities and/or assets. Additional sanctions against Venezuela may in the future be imposed by the U.S. or other countries. These factors, among others, can have a negative impact on a Fund’s investments.
Brady Bonds. Certain Funds may invest in Brady Bonds. A Fund’s emerging market debt securities may include emerging market governmental debt obligations commonly referred to as Brady Bonds. Brady Bonds are securities created through the exchange of existing commercial bank loans to sovereign entities for new obligations in connection with debt restructurings under a debt restructuring plan introduced by former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Nicholas F. Brady (the “Brady Plan”). Brady Plan debt restructurings have been implemented in a number of countries, including: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jordan, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Brady Bonds may be collateralized or uncollateralized, are issued in various currencies (primarily the U.S. dollar) and are actively traded in the OTC secondary market. Brady Bonds are not considered to be U.S. Government Securities. U.S. dollar-denominated, collateralized Brady Bonds, which may be fixed rate par bonds or floating rate discount bonds, are generally collateralized in full as to principal by U.S. Treasury zero-coupon bonds having the same maturity as the Brady Bonds. Interest payments on these Brady Bonds generally are collateralized on a one-year or longer rolling-forward basis by cash or securities in an amount that, in the case of fixed rate bonds, is equal to at least one year of interest payments or, in the case of floating rate bonds, initially is equal to at least one year’s interest payments based on the applicable interest rate at that time and is adjusted at regular intervals thereafter. Certain Brady Bonds are entitled to “value recovery payments” in certain circumstances, which in effect constitute supplemental interest payments but generally are not collateralized. For example, some Mexican and Venezuelan Brady Bonds include attached value recovery options, which increase interest payments if oil revenues rise. Brady Bonds are often viewed as having three or four valuation components: (i) the collateralized repayment of principal at final maturity; (ii) the collateralized interest payments; (iii) the uncollateralized interest payments; and (iv) any uncollateralized repayment of principal at maturity (the uncollateralized amounts constitute the “residual risk”).
Most Mexican Brady Bonds issued to date have principal repayments at final maturity fully collateralized by U.S. Treasury zero-coupon bonds (or comparable collateral denominated in other currencies) and interest coupon payments collateralized on an 18-month rolling-forward basis by funds held in escrow by an agent for the bondholders. A significant portion of the Venezuelan Brady Bonds and the Argentine Brady Bonds issued to date have repayments at final maturity collateralized by U.S. Treasury zero-coupon bonds (or comparable collateral denominated in other currencies) and/or interest coupon payments collateralized on a 14-month (for Venezuela) or 12-month (for Argentina) rolling-forward basis by securities held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as collateral agent.
Brady Bonds involve various risk factors described above associated with investing in foreign securities, including the history of defaults with respect to commercial bank loans by public and private entities of countries issuing Brady Bonds. In light of the residual risk of Brady Bonds and, among other factors, the history of defaults, investments in Brady Bonds are considered speculative. There can be no assurance that Brady Bonds in which the Funds may invest will not be subject to restructuring arrangements or to requests for new credit, which may cause the Funds to suffer a loss of interest or principal on any of its holdings.
China Investments Risk.
Investments in securities of companies domiciled in the People’s Republic of China (“China” or the “PRC”), including certain Hong Kong-listed and U.S.-listed securities, involve a high degree of risk and special considerations not typically associated with investing in the U.S. securities markets. Such heightened risks include, among others, an authoritarian government, popular unrest associated with demands for improved political, economic and social conditions, the impact of regional conflict on the economy and hostile relations with neighboring countries.
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Military conflicts, either in response to internal social unrest or conflicts with other countries, could disrupt economic development. The Chinese economy is vulnerable to the long-running disagreements and religious and nationalist disputes with Tibet and the Xinjiang region. Since 1997, there have been tensions between the Chinese government and many people in Hong Kong who perceive China as tightening control over Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous liberal political, economic, legal, and social framework. Recent protests and unrest have increased tensions even further. Due to the interconnected nature of the Hong Kong and Chinese economies, this instability in Hong Kong may cause uncertainty in the Hong Kong and Chinese markets. China has a complex territorial dispute regarding the sovereignty of Taiwan and has made threats of invasion; Taiwan-based companies and individuals are significant investors in China. Military conflict between China and Taiwan may adversely affect securities of Chinese issuers. In addition, China has strained international relations with Japan, India, Russia and other neighbors due to territorial disputes, historical animosities and other defense concerns. Additionally, China is alleged to have participated in state-sponsored cyberattacks against foreign companies and foreign governments. Actual and threatened responses to such activity and strained international relations, including purchasing restrictions, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Chinese government or Chinese companies, may impact China’s economy and Chinese issuers of securities in which a Fund invests. China could be affected by military events on the Korean peninsula or internal instability within North Korea. These situations may cause uncertainty in the Chinese market and may adversely affect the performance of the Chinese economy.
The Chinese government has implemented significant economic reforms in order to liberalize trade policy, promote foreign investment in the economy, reduce government control of the economy and develop market mechanisms. However, the Chinese government still exercises substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector and may own or control many companies. Chinese companies, such as those in the financial services or technology sectors, and potentially other sectors in the future, are subject to the risk that Chinese authorities can intervene in their operations and structure. The Chinese government continues to maintain a major role in economic policy making and investing in China involves risks of losses due to expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and property, and the imposition of restrictions on foreign investments and on repatriation of capital invested.
The Chinese government may intervene in the Chinese financial markets, such as by the imposition of trading restrictions, a ban on “naked” short selling or the suspension of short selling for certain stocks. This may affect market price and liquidity of these stocks, and may have an unpredictable impact on the investment activities of the Funds. Furthermore, such market interventions may have a negative impact on market sentiment which may in turn affect the performance of the securities markets and as a result the performance of the Funds.
In addition, there is less regulation and monitoring of the securities markets and the activities of investors, brokers and other participants in China than in the United States. Accordingly, issuers of securities in China are not subject to the same degree of regulation as those in the United States with respect to such matters as insider trading rules, tender offer regulation, stockholder proxy requirements and the requirements mandating timely and accurate disclosure of information. Stock markets in China are in the process of change and further development. This may lead to trading volatility, and difficulties in the settlement and recording of transactions and interpretation and application of the relevant regulations. Custodians may not be able to offer the level of service and safe-keeping in relation to the settlement and administration of securities in China that is customary in more developed markets. In particular, there is a risk that a Fund may not be recognized as the owner of securities that are held on behalf of the Fund by a sub-custodian.
The Chinese government historically took positions that prevented the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) from inspecting the audit work and practices of accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong for compliance with U.S. law and professional standards. On August 26, 2022, the PCAOB signed a Statement of Protocol with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Finance of the PRC, which marked the first step toward opening access for the PCAOB to inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong completely in accordance with U.S. law. However, as this development is relatively recent, the implementation of the Statement of Protocol remains to be tested. Audits performed by PCAOB-registered accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong may be less reliable than those performed by firms subject to PCAOB inspection. Accordingly, information about the Chinese securities in which the Funds invest may be less reliable or complete. Under amendments to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act enacted in December 2020, which requires that the PCAOB be permitted to inspect the accounting firm of a U.S.-listed Chinese issuer, Chinese companies with securities listed on U.S. exchanges may be delisted if the PCAOB is unable to inspect the accounting firm.
The Renminbi (“RMB”) is currently not a freely convertible currency and is subject to foreign exchange control policies and repatriation restrictions imposed by the Chinese government. The imposition of currency controls may
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negatively impact performance and liquidity of the Funds as capital may become trapped in the PRC. The Funds could be adversely affected by delays in, or a refusal to grant, any required governmental approval for repatriation of capital, as well as by the application to the Funds of any restrictions on investments. Investing in entities either in, or which have a substantial portion of their operations in, the PRC may require the Funds to adopt special procedures, seek local government approvals or take other actions, each of which may involve additional costs and delays to the Funds. The Fund may also incur costs in connection with conversions between U.S. dollars and RMB, as well as in connection with conversions between the two separate types of RMB, the onshore RMB (“CNY”) and the offshore RMB (“CNH”).
While the Chinese economy has grown rapidly in recent years, there is no assurance that this growth rate will be maintained. China may experience substantial rates of inflation, significant indebtedness or economic recessions, causing a negative effect on its economy and securities market. China’s economy is heavily dependent on export growth. Reduction in spending on Chinese products and services, supply chain diversification, institution of additional tariffs, sanctions or other trade barriers (including as a result of heightened trade tensions between China and the U.S. or in response to actual or alleged Chinese cyber activity) or a downturn in any of the economies of China’s key trading partners may have an adverse impact on the securities of Chinese issuers. Some Chinese companies are subject to economic or trade restrictions imposed by other governments due to national security, human rights or other concerns of such government. For example, certain foreign technology companies are subject to U.S. export restrictions as they are believed to pose a national security risk to the U.S. The U.S. also bans imports of goods produced in certain regions of China or by certain Chinese companies due to concerns about forced labor. Such restrictions may have unanticipated and adverse effects on the Chinese economy. Any such action that targets Chinese financial markets or securities exchanges could interfere with orderly trading, delay settlement or cause market disruptions. So long as these restrictions do not include restrictions on investments, the Fund may invest in such companies.
The tax laws and regulations in the PRC are subject to change, including the issuance of authoritative guidance or enforcement, possibly with retroactive effect. The interpretation, applicability and enforcement of such laws by the PRC tax authorities are not as consistent and transparent as those of more developed nations, and may vary over time and from region to region. The application and enforcement of the PRC tax rules could have a significant adverse effect on a Fund and its investors, particularly in relation to capital gains withholding tax imposed upon non-residents. In addition, the accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards and practices applicable to Chinese companies may be less rigorous, and may result in significant differences between financial statements prepared in accordance with PRC accounting standards and practices and those prepared in accordance with international accounting standards.
From time to time and in recent years, China has experienced outbreaks of infectious illnesses and the country may be subject to other public health threats, infectious illnesses, diseases or similar issues in the future. Any spread of an infectious illness, public health threat or similar issue could reduce consumer demand or economic output, result in market closures, travel restrictions or quarantines, and generally have a significant impact on the Chinese economy, which in turn could adversely affect a Fund’s investments.
Risk of Investing through Stock Connect.
General. China A-shares are equity securities of companies domiciled in China that trade on Chinese stock exchanges such as the Shanghai Stock Exchange (“SSE”), the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (“SZSE”) and the Beijing Stock Exchange (“BSE”) (“A-shares”). Foreign investment in A-shares on the SSE and SZSE is not permitted, other than through a qualified foreign investor approved pursuant to the relevant mainland China laws and regulations as may be promulgated and/or amended from time to time (“QFI”).
Investment in eligible exchange traded funds and A-shares listed and traded on the SSE or SZSE (“Stock Connect Securities”) is also permitted through the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect program or the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect program, as applicable (each, a “Stock Connect” and collectively, “Stock Connects”). Each Stock Connect is a securities trading and clearing links program established by The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (“SEHK”), the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company Limited (“HKSCC”), the SSE or SZSE, as applicable, and China Securities Depository and Clearing Corporation Limited (“CSDCC”) that aims to provide mutual stock market access between the PRC and Hong Kong by permitting investors to trade and settle shares on each market through their local securities brokers. Under Stock Connects, a Fund’s trading of Stock Connect Securities listed on the SSE or SZSE, as applicable, would be effectuated through its Hong Kong broker and a securities trading service company established by SEHK.
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Although no individual investment quotas or licensing requirements apply to investors in Stock Connects, trading through a Stock Connect’s Northbound Trading Link is subject to daily investment quota limitations which require that buy orders for Stock Connect Securities be rejected once the daily quota is exceeded (although a Fund will be permitted to sell their Stock Connect Securities regardless of the quota). These limitations may restrict a Fund from investing in Stock Connect Securities on a timely basis, which could affect the Fund’s ability to effectively pursue its investment strategy. Investment quotas are also subject to change. Investment in Stock Connect Securities through a Stock Connect is subject to trading, clearance and settlement procedures that could pose risks to a Fund. Stock Connect Securities purchased through Stock Connects generally may not be sold or otherwise transferred other than through Stock Connects in accordance with applicable rules. For example, the PRC regulations require that in order for an investor to sell any Stock Connect Securities on a certain trading day, there must be sufficient Stock Connect Securities in the investor’s account before the market opens on that day. If there are insufficient Stock Connect Securities in the investor’s account, the sell order will be rejected by the SSE or SZSE, as applicable. SEHK carries out pre-trade checking on sell orders of certain stocks listed on the SSE market (“SSE Securities”) or SZSE market (“SZSE Securities”) of its participants (i.e., stock brokers) to ensure that this requirement is satisfied. While shares must be designated as eligible to be traded under a Stock Connect, those shares may also lose such designation, and if this occurs, such shares may be sold but cannot be purchased through a Stock Connect. In addition, Stock Connects will only operate on days when both the Chinese and Hong Kong markets are open for trading, and banking services are available in both markets on the corresponding settlement days. Therefore, an investment in Stock Connect Securities through a Stock Connect may subject a Fund to a risk of price fluctuations on days when the Chinese market is open, but a Stock Connect is not trading. Moreover, day (turnaround) trading is not permitted on the Stock Connect Securities market. If an investor buys Stock Connect Securities on day “T,” the investor will only be able to sell the Stock Connect Securities on or after day T+1. Further, since all trades of Stock Connect Securities must be settled in RMB, investors must have timely access to a reliable supply of offshore RMB, which cannot be guaranteed. There is also no assurance that RMB will not be subject to devaluation. Any devaluation of RMB could adversely affect a Fund’s investments. If a Fund holds a class of shares denominated in a local currency other than RMB, the Fund will be exposed to currency exchange risk if the Fund converts the local currency into RMB for investments in Stock Connect Securities. A Fund may also incur conversion costs.
Stock Connect Securities held through the nominee structure under a Stock Connect will be held through HKSCC as nominee on behalf of investors. The precise nature and rights of a Fund as the beneficial owner of the SSE Securities or SZSE Securities through HKSCC as nominee is not well defined under the PRC laws. There is a lack of a clear definition of, and distinction between, legal ownership and beneficial ownership under the PRC laws and there have been few cases involving a nominee account structure in the PRC courts. The exact nature and methods of enforcement of the rights and interests of a Fund under the PRC laws is also uncertain. In the unlikely event that HKSCC becomes subject to winding up proceedings in Hong Kong, there is a risk that the SSE Securities or SZSE Securities may not be regarded as held for the beneficial ownership of a Fund or as part of the general assets of HKSCC available for general distribution to its creditors. Notwithstanding the fact that HKSCC does not claim proprietary interests in the SSE Securities or SZSE Securities held in its omnibus stock account in the CSDCC, the CSDCC as the share registrar for SSE- or SZSE-listed companies will still treat HKSCC as one of the shareholders when it handles corporate actions in respect of such SSE Securities or SZSE Securities. HKSCC monitors the corporate actions affecting SSE Securities and SZSE Securities and keeps participants of Central Clearing and Settlement System (“CCASS”) informed of all such corporate actions that require CCASS participants to take steps in order to participate in them. Investors may only exercise their voting rights by providing their voting instructions to HKSCC through participants of CCASS. All voting instructions from CCASS participants will be consolidated by HKSCC, who will then submit a combined single voting instruction to the relevant SSE- or SZSE-listed company. A Fund may suffer difficulties or delays in enforcing its rights in SSE Securities or SZSE Securities.
Hong Kong’s Investor Compensation Fund is established to pay compensation to investors of any nationality who suffer pecuniary losses as a result of default of a licensed intermediary or authorized financial institution in relation to exchange-traded products in Hong Kong. For defaults occurring on or after January 1, 2020, Hong Kong’s Investor Compensation Fund covers investors’ losses in relation to securities (i) that are traded on the SSE or the SZSE and (ii) in respect of which an order for sale or purchase is permitted to be routed through the Northbound Trading Link of a Stock Connect. On the other hand, since a Fund carries out Northbound trading through securities brokers in Hong Kong but not PRC brokers, it is not protected by the China Securities Investor Protection Fund in the PRC.
Market participants are able to participate in Stock Connects subject to meeting certain information technology capability, risk management and other requirements as may be specified by the relevant exchange and/or clearing house. Further, the “connectivity” in Stock Connects requires routing of orders across the border of Hong Kong and
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the PRC. This requires the development of new information technology systems on the part of SEHK and exchange participants. There is no assurance that the systems of SEHK and market participants will function properly or will continue to be adapted to changes and developments in both markets. In the event that the relevant systems fail to function properly, trading in Stock Connect Securities through Stock Connects could be disrupted.
The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect program launched in November 2014 and the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect program launched in December 2016 are both in their initial stages. There is no certainty as to how the current regulations will be applied or interpreted going forward, and new or revised regulations may be issued from time to time by the regulators and stock exchanges in China and Hong Kong in connection with operations, legal enforcement and cross-border trades under Stock Connects. In addition, there can be no assurance that Stock Connect will not be discontinued. A Fund may be adversely affected as a result of such changes. Furthermore, the securities regimes and legal systems of China and Hong Kong differ significantly and issues may arise from the differences on an on-going basis. In the event that the relevant systems fail to function properly, trading in both markets through Stock Connects could be disrupted and a Fund’s ability to achieve its investment objective may be adversely affected. In addition, a Fund’s investments in Stock Connect Securities through Stock Connects are generally subject to Chinese securities regulations and listing rules, among other restrictions. Further, different fees, costs and taxes are imposed on foreign investors acquiring Stock Connect Securities through Stock Connects, and these fees, costs and taxes may be higher than comparable fees, costs and taxes imposed on owners of other securities providing similar investment exposure.
The Funds may also invest in Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges, such as ADRs or variable interest entities (“VIEs”), which are subject to the investment risks associated with the underlying Chinese issuer or operating company. Chinese operating companies listed on U.S. exchanges are often structured as VIEs. Instead of directly owning the equity securities of a Chinese company, a VIE enters into service contracts and other contracts with the Chinese company, which provide the VIE with exposure to the company. Although the VIE has no equity ownership of the Chinese operating company, the contractual arrangements permit the VIE to consolidate the Chinese operating company into its financial statements. Intervention by the Chinese government with respect to VIEs could significantly affect the Chinese operating company’s performance and the enforceability of the VIE’s contractual arrangements with the Chinese company.
Suspension Risk. SSE Securities and SZSE Securities may only be bought from, or sold to, a Fund at times when the relevant SSE Securities and SZSE Securities may be sold or purchased on the relevant Chinese stock exchange. The SSE Securities and SZSE Securities markets have a higher propensity for trading suspensions than many other global equity markets. Each of the SEHK, SSE and SZSE reserves the right to suspend trading of SSE Securities and SZSE Securities purchased on the Stock Connects if necessary for ensuring an orderly and fair market and ensuring that risks are managed prudently. Consent from the relevant regulator would be sought before a suspension of Northbound trading is triggered. The relevant PRC government authority may also impose “circuit breakers” and other measures to halt or suspend Northbound trading. Where a suspension in the Northbound trading through Stock Connect is effected, the Fund’s ability to access the PRC market will be adversely affected. Trading suspensions in certain stocks could lead to greater market execution risk and costs for a Fund. The SSE and SZSE currently apply a daily price limit, generally set at 10% or 20%, of the amount of fluctuation permitted in the prices of the relevant SSE Securities and SZSE Securities during a single trading day. The daily price limit refers to price movements only and does not restrict trading within the relevant limit. There can be no assurance that a liquid market on an exchange will exist for any particular SSE Security or SZSE Security or for any particular time.
Risk of Investing in the China Interbank Bond Market through Bond Connect. A Fund may invest directly in the domestic bond market in the PRC (the “China Interbank Bond Market”) through the northbound trading of Bond Connect (“Bond Connect”). Bond Connect is an initiative launched in July 2017 for mutual bond market access between the PRC and Hong Kong, established by the China Foreign Exchange Trade System & National Interbank Funding Centre (“CFETS”), China Central Depository & Clearing Co., Ltd (“CDCC”), Shanghai Clearing House (“SCH”), Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (“HKEX”) and Central Moneymarkets Unit (“CMU”). Under the prevailing regulations in the PRC, eligible foreign investors are allowed to invest in the bonds circulated in the China Interbank Bond Market through Bond Connect. Eligible foreign investors may submit trade requests for bonds circulated in the China Interbank Bond Market through offshore electronic bond trading platforms (such as Tradeweb), which will in turn transmit their requests for quotation to CFETS. CFETS will send the requests for quotation to a number of approved onshore dealers (including market makers and others engaged in the market making business) in the PRC. The approved onshore dealer(s) will respond to the requests for quotation via CFETS and CFETS will send their responses to those eligible foreign investors through the same offshore electronic bond trading platforms. Once the eligible foreign investor accepts the quotation, the trade is concluded on CFETS.
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The settlement and custody of bonds traded in the China Interbank Bond Market under Bond Connect will be effected through the settlement and custody link between CMU, as an offshore custody agent, and CDCC and SCH, as onshore custodians and clearing institutions in the PRC. Under the settlement link, CDCC or SCH will effect gross settlement of confirmed trades onshore and CMU will process bond settlement instructions from CMU members on behalf of eligible foreign investors in accordance with its relevant rules. Since the introduction in August 2018 of delivery versus payment (DVP) settlement in respect of Bond Connect, the movement of cash and securities is carried out simultaneously on a real-time basis. Pursuant to the prevailing regulations in the PRC, CMU, as the offshore custody agent recognized by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, will open omnibus nominee accounts with the onshore custody agent recognized by the People’s Bank of China (i.e., CDCC and SCH). All bonds traded by eligible foreign investors through Bond Connect will be registered in the name of CMU, which will hold such bonds as a nominee owner. Therefore, a Fund will be exposed to custody risks with respect to CMU. In the remote event of a CDCC or SCH default, CMU’s liabilities in Bond Connect bonds under its market contracts with clearing participants will be limited to assisting clearing participants in pursuing their claims against CDCC or SCH. The Fund may suffer delay in the recovery process or may not fully recover its losses from CDCC or SCH. In addition, as the relevant filings, registration with the People’s Bank of China, and account opening have to be carried out by third parties, including CMU, CDCC, SCH, and CFETS, a Fund is subject to the risks of default or errors on the part of such third parties.
The precise nature and rights of a Fund as the beneficial owner of the bonds traded in the China Interbank Bond Market through CMU as nominee is not well-defined under PRC law. There is a lack of a clear definition of, and distinction between, legal ownership and beneficial ownership under PRC law and there have been few cases involving a nominee account structure in the PRC courts. The exact nature and methods of enforcement of the rights and interests of a Fund under PRC law are also uncertain.
Market volatility and potential lack of liquidity due to low trading volume of certain bonds in the China Interbank Bond Market may result in prices of certain bonds traded on such market fluctuating significantly. A Fund investing in such market is therefore subject to liquidity and volatility risks. The bid-ask spreads of the prices of such securities may be large, and a Fund may therefore incur significant costs and may suffer losses when selling such investments. The bonds traded in the China Interbank Bond Market may be difficult or impossible to sell, which may impact a Fund’s ability to acquire or dispose of such securities at their expected prices.
Investing in the China Interbank Bond Market through Bond Connect is also subject to regulatory risks. The relevant rules and regulations are subject to change, which may have potential retrospective effect, and there can be no assurance that Bond Connect will not be discontinued or abolished. Furthermore, the securities regimes and legal systems of China and Hong Kong differ significantly and issues may arise based on these differences. In the event that the relevant authorities suspend account opening or trading on the China Interbank Bond Market, a Fund’s ability to invest in the China Interbank Bond Market will be adversely affected and limited. In such event, the Fund’s ability to achieve its investment objective will be negatively affected and, after exhausting other trading alternatives, the Fund may suffer substantial losses as a result. Further, if Bond Connect is not operating, a Fund may not be able to acquire or dispose of bonds through Bond Connect in a timely manner, which could adversely affect the Fund’s performance.
Trading through Bond Connect is performed through newly developed trading platforms and operational systems. There is no assurance that such systems will function properly or will continue to be adapted to changes and developments in the market. In the event that the relevant systems fail to function properly, trading through Bond Connect may be disrupted. A Fund’s ability to trade through Bond Connect (and hence to pursue its investment strategy) may therefore be adversely affected. In addition, where a Fund invests in the China Interbank Bond Market through Bond Connect, it may be subject to risks of delays inherent in the order placing and/or settlement systems.
Bond Connect trades are settled in Chinese currency, the RMB, which is currently restricted and not freely convertible. As a result, a Fund will be exposed to currency risk, and it cannot be guaranteed that investors will have timely access to a reliable supply of RMB.
Tax Risk – Withholding Income Tax Risk. According to PRC tax regulations, a 10% withholding income tax is imposed on PRC sourced dividends and interests from non-government bonds paid to a non-PRC tax resident enterprise, unless the rate is reduced under an applicable tax treaty. From a technical perspective, withholding income tax is also applicable to capital gains realized by foreign investors on the disposal of PRC equity interests.
There are however certain tax exemptions available, some temporary in nature, highlighted below.
On November 14, 2014, the Ministry of Finance (“MoF”), China Securities Regulatory Commission and the State Taxation Administration (“STA”), acting with State Council’s approval, jointly released Circular 79, which temporarily
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exempts Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors and Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors from tax on capital gains derived from the trading of shares and other equity interest investments on or after November 17, 2014. Subsequently, Circulars 81 and 127 were issued to temporarily exempt tax on capital gains derived from trading of A-shares through the Stock Connects. The duration of the temporary exemptions is not stated in the circulars and is subject to termination by the PRC tax authorities with or without notice.
On November 7, 2018, the MoF and STA jointly issued Circular 108, which states that foreign institutional investors are temporarily exempt from withholding income tax with respect to interest income on bonds derived from the PRC bond market from November 7, 2018 to November 6, 2021. On November 22, 2021, the MoF and STA issued Public Notice 34 to extend the temporary exemption from November 7, 2021 to December 31, 2025.
Value Added Tax (“VAT”) Risk.
From May 1, 2016, VAT applies to certain income derived by the Fund, including PRC sourced interest income on non-government bonds and trading gains.
There are however certain tax exemptions available, some temporary in nature, highlighted below.
VAT exemptions currently apply to capital gains from trading of Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors and Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors products, A-shares traded on the Stock Connects and debt securities traded in the China Interbank Bond Market.
On November 7, 2018, the MoF and SAT jointly issued Circular 108 which states that foreign institutional investors are temporarily exempt from VAT with respect to interest income on bonds derived from the PRC bond market from November 7, 2018 to November 6, 2021. On November 22, 2021, the MoF and STA issued Public Notice 34 to extend the temporary exemption from November 7, 2