In the latest affirmation that big egos are still a force on Wall Street, six investment banks are jostling for credit as lead adviser in a big thrift acquisition earlier this year.

Salomon Brothers Inc., Smith Barney, Lazard Freres & Co., Goldman Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan & Co. and Hovde Financial Inc. all have claimed credit for the $1.1 billion acquisition of First. Nationwide FSB by MacAndrews & Forbes Inc. -- the biggest thrift sale ever. What's more, each has received credit for the deal in one published ranking or another.

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