Washington - A three-judge federal appeals court could issue a decision in the challenge to the constitutionality of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board's political contributions rule within two to six months, lawyers for parties in the case said Friday after battling each other in court.

But even as the three judges in the case, Blount v. SEC, are weighing the fate of Rule G-37, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators are being asked to investigate whether Merrill Lynch & Co. violated it in connection with municipal bond financings done for Orange County, Calif.

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