In the midst of an economic minefield and a buyside weary of less-than-stellar names, the most significant and hard-won asset securitizations last year were not surprisingly structured financings for distressed issuers.

While the top two deals were fairly obvious picks, calling either more "Groundbreaking" than the other was no easy task. In the end, editors and several market voices agreed that Providian Financial Corp.'s PACCT 2002-1A, which some have argued allowed the company to continue as a going concern, emerged as more precedent setting and representative of the market's spirit and creativity in bad times. Also, as the deal's collateral was first pre-purchased by managing underwriters Goldman Sachs and Salomon Smith Barney, PACCT is a prime example of a burgeoning area in the structured debt market: principal finance.

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