WASHINGTON - The municipal bond industry appears to be sharply divided whether the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board should toughen its customer protection rules for buyers of unrated bonds, according to a few comment letters that have begun to trickle in to the MSRB.

Officials with two brokerage firms, Edward D. Jones & Co. and Coastal Securities Ltd., said in letters to the board that they oppose requiring brokers to take any additional steps to protect customers when the bonds are sold. Such a move, they warned, could backfire and cut available credit to reputable small issuers.

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