Mark S. Ferber, a former financial adviser to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, secretly helped Merrill Lynch & Co. obtain the agency's business as a "quid pro quo" for promoting him to other issuers around the nation, the state's inspector general alleged yesterday.

In a scathing seven-page letter to the authority, inspector general Robert A. Cerasoli said that despite several statements to the contrary by officials at Merrill and by Ferber, who worked for Lazard Freres & Co. at the time, the conflict of interest is documented in internal documents he obtained from the firms.

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