WASHINGTON -- Matthews & Wright Group Inc., the parent company of the former broker-dealer firm that was forced out of the municipal market after underwriting dozens of questionable bond deals, changed its name yesterday to Helmstar Group Inc.

The new name, which will be listed on the American Stock Exchange, "dynamically expresses the company's strategic movement into merchant banking through joint ventures, financial consulting, and mortgage servicing," Helmstar officials said in a press release.

Matthews & Wright, which is still a defendant in a handful of lawsuits that have been brought by bondholders and a local governmental issuer, lost its broker-dealer license in 1989 as part of a settlement agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The agreement settled fraud charges that stemmed from 26 municipal bond issues the firm rushed to market in the mid-1980s and closed without cash. Several of those deals have since been declared taxable, or are under investigation for possible tax law violations, by the Internal Revenue Services.

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