The Federal Reserve Board agreed Tuesday to buy an unlimited amount of commercial paper directly from cash-strapped companies, and rather than criticize it for becoming the lender of last resort to yet another group of borrowers, most observers simply applauded.

"In this instance we've seen the Fed try to get ahead of the curve," said Ernest Patrikis, a partner in Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and a former lawyer at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "It's certainly unique. It's creative. It's the Fed saying, in effect, it will deal directly with issuers. It's a bold step."

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