Lehman Brothers, which finished as the third-leading underwriter last year, is the leading U.S. ABS underwriter through the first quarter of 2005, according to data maintained by Thomson Financial. With $23.3 billion of domestic ABS supply sold through March 31, Lehman has a slight $1.7 billion lead over its closest rival as the 2005 race comes out of the gate. Lehman controls roughly 10.3% of the U.S. market, according to Thomson. Over the same period last year, Lehman was the second-leading underwriter, with $18.7 billion in proceeds sold and a 10% market share.

The biggest surprise is not which bank sits atop the league tables, however, but where perennial leader Citigroup Global Markets sits - in eighth. Last year's leading underwriter, and year-end leader for four of the last five years, is roughly $6.5 billion off the pace set by Lehman and has seven competitors stacked ahead of it after the first three months of 2005.

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