The move by Vanguard, the nation's third largest manager of ETFs, to change the benchmark on 22 of its index funds and ETFs earlier this month reverberated throughout the indexing industry, placing it squarely on the battlefield as the pricing war between two of the biggest ETF makers rages on.

Vanguard announced on Oct. 2 that it would move away from index publisher MSCI and instead transfer the 22 Vanguard fund products to established benchmarks run by London-based FTSE Group or to new benchmarks developed by the University of Chicago's Center for Research in Security Prices. The switch, planned for January, involved almost $540 billion in assets, and is estimated to cost MSCI about 2% on its 2013 revenue and 6% on its operating income. The New York-based index firm's stock hit a three-year low, losing almost a quarter of its market value, on the news.

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