BOSTON - The Securities and Exchange Commission has taken a major step toward filing civil complaints against former financial adviser and investment banker Mark S. Ferber, Merrill Lynch & Co., and Lazard Freres & Co. for violations involving municipal bond sales, according to several sources.

A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the moves by the SEC would not be a surprise and said other agencies investigating Ferber have been expecting the SEC to act.

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