As large commercial banks continue to use their ability to lend credit for the purpose of dominating the ABS league tables, investment banks that are not able to provide lines of credit to issuers are having difficulty matching the volume of business that the likes of Citi/Salomon Smith Barney and J.P. Morgan Chase can engender. In response to this overall trend of "pay to play" occuring in debt underwriting, Standard & Poor's released a report last week revising its outlook to Negative for Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

Not coincidentally, this is particularly relevant for the ABS market, as the aforementioned firms - none of them aligned with a major credit provider - have gradually fallen in league table rankings after being top-ten contenders throughout the 90's. Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs fell out of the top ten for year-to-date 2001, and Merrill dropped to No. 8, according to Thomson Financial.

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