The discovery this week that Lazard Freres & Co. had a private contract with Merrill Lynch & Co. to split fees on several swaps transactions has opened up a new avenue in the ongoing debate about inter-company relations in the municipal industry.

Officials involved in the arrangement this week confirmed the existence of the contract, which involved the sharing of about $6 million in fees on seven swaps in Massachusetts, after it was reported Monday in The Boston Globe.

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