Morningstar's nearly 20-year span of unbroken growth came to a halt in recent months after security regulators began to probe the firm's new business ventures, Dow Jones Newswires reports.

Experts say the leveling off of new business development at Morningstar is a byproduct of steps to expand too quickly. Increased silence at the company in recent months could also be a byproduct of concern over its forthcoming initial public offering, one expert noted.

The latest regulatory inquiry haunting the company stems from its 2002 expansion into the retirement plan consulting business. Last month, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer doled out a subpoena requiring Morningstar to produce documents related to its consulting business. The company downplayed the request as a routine inquiry, but this week it admitted the Securities and Exchange Commission joined Spitzer in probing increasingly curious relationships between fund companies and retirement plan advice.

Industry experts also are also waiting to see whether regulators delve into business arrangements in which funds pay Morningstar for rankings in some situations. The company defends its integrity by maintaining its use of a Chinese wall to separate analyst from other money-making departments.

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