Merrill Lynch & Co. was voted the most professional municipal derivatives dealer in a poll released this month by Swaps Monitor newsletter.

Merrill Lynch ranked first in the municipal category, followed by BT Securities Corp. in second place, Lehman Brothers in third, and AIG Financial Products Corp. in fourth.

As part of its annual survey of derivatives dealers, the newsletter asked market participants to say which of their peers is the most highly esteemed in several categories, including municipals.

Both Merrill Lynch and BT Securities held the same ranking in last year's survey. But Lehman Brothers shot up from ninth place in 1991, and AIG Financial moved up a notch from its fifth-place ranking last year.

The newsletter notes that some dealers are so big and active in the market that size alone contributes to their high marks in the poll.

"By contrast, less active firms probably need to be much better if they are to achieve a similar ranking," the newsletter says. "The ultimate measure of success, however, is not respect but profitability."

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