Vestar Capital Partners — a private equity firm — has purchased Institutional Shareholder Services from MSCI. ISS is a proxy advisory firm, providing analysis and research for institutional investors such as mutual funds and endowments as they vote on shareholder decisions. MSCI provides stock market indexes and portfolio management tools — although its purchase of ISS in 2010 has been seen as less-than-beneficial for both firms. The deal for Vestar clocks in at $364 million, but it does not come without further scrutiny from regulatory bodies.
The Washington Post writes that the debate around how proxy advisory firms such as ISS influence the decisions of shareholders has been a new focus for the Securities and Exchange Commission, as the Commission held discussions in December 2013 around how impartial the influence of the firms might actually be, and whether or not their recommendations influence institutional investors too heavily in certain directions.