ABN Amro is said to be beefing up its capital markets effort in the U.S., and will likely announce a few significant hires over the next few weeks. On the structured finance side, ABN Amro is close to placing a key piece in its re-vamped asset-backed group with the hiring of a veteran ABS syndicate professional to head its New York-based desk. With experience at a top-10 underwriter, this person is scheduled to start Monday. Interested parties asked that the name not be disclosed just yet, but further information will be available shortly at www.asreport.com

CDO guru Laurence Isaacson has joined McKee Nelson, completing what the firm coins its "initial building efforts," which has included a rough 50-man ramp-up over the last year or so. See p. 17 for more coverage.

RBC Dain Rauscher recently hired student loan specialist Harry Apfel from Citigroup as a managing director in its Education Loan Finance Group. In his 22 years at Salomon/Citibank, Apfel ascended to the position of managing director and co-head of education loan finance. In his new position, he will be part of a seven-member team, alongside managing directors Jeff Wagner and Vinny Cimino.

Andrew Bussmann has started in the CDO group at Credit Suisse First Boston. Bussmann, who previously worked at JPMorgan Securities, will report jointly to Tom Pascal and Kris Krause, who recently took over the group following Chris Ricciardi's departure to Merrill Lynch.

DaimlerChrysler recently filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission to sell up to $6 billion of dealer-floorplan loan-backed notes from its Carco trust. No underwriter was named in the filing. The last time DaimlerChrysler sold wholesale floorplan loan-backed notes was December 2001, with a $1 billion offering via the former Salomon Smith Barney.

Published reports stating that John Hancock Financial Services was bringing a synthetic CDO transaction to market this year appear to be untrue. A spokesperson from John Hancock stated the firm has no such business shift in mind, adding "we currently have no immediate plans for the type of offering mentioned." John Hancock is a collateral manager for several CBOs.

On the heels of its first annual meeting, the American Securitization Forum (ASF) is planning its first winter conference for early next year, preceding the traditional Arizona conferences. The location for the event has not been decided yet, although it is expected to be held at a warm-weather venue.

DebtX Securities is seeking buyers for the speculative-grade tranches of a synthetic credit card portfolio-backed transaction the firm is leading for an unspecified European banking entity, sources said. Past the structuring stage, Boston-based DebtX is currently seeking indicative levels from interested parties.

Charming Shoppes, parent of Fashion Bug and Fashion Bug Plus, had the ratings on its outstanding ABS, totaling $205 million, placed on watch for a downgrade last week by Moody's Investors Service. This followed the announcement that the issuer was experiencing accounting irregularities associated with a servicing transfer. In its release, Moody's cited servicing deficiencies at Spirit of America, the servicer. "This action is indicative of the heightened awareness of servicer reporting issues in the current environment," a Moody's spokesperson said.

Standard & Poor's affirmed and removed from CreditWatch Negative seven classes of auto-lease ABS issued by two units of Cendant Corp. The rating agency's actions came after Cendant amended the transactions to comply with S&P's concerns over unfounded pension liabilities. The agency affirmed the A1 and A2 classes of Chesapeake Funding 2002-1, A1, A2 and B classes of 2002-2 and the A1 and A2 classes of Greyhound Funding 2001-1. "The granting of a perfected security interest in the leasing assets owned by the titling trust addresses the risk highlighted by S&P at the time it placed the auto- lease transactions on CreditWatch, and effectively de-links the rating of the ABS transactions from the sponsor/originator's credit rating and the funding status of its defined benefit plan," S&P said in a release.

David Pullman, who was reportedly voted out of his co-op building recently after suing his neighbors, also lost his case against music mogul Charles Koppelman, according to a report by The New York Post. Pullman, inventor of the so-called Bowie bonds, claimed no one but himself could use the idea, and tied up the courts for five years.

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