There is a novel, called "The Financier," that I'd recommend to anyone working in the municipal bond business today. It bears a lesson for those industry regulators who hope to clamp down on the selection of negotiated underwriters in the wake of the recent scandals in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

The story concerns a banker, Frank Cowperwood, an ambitious up-and-comer whose growing list of clients includes the elected treasurer of a large municipality with significant public funds to invest. Cowperwood is not dishonest, but he is prone to overextending himself: in his ambition to compete with the larger players in the market, he sets complex schemes in motion.

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