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March 12, 2014

M&A investment bank rankings are in league of their own for flaws

“There are two things that all merger and acquisition bankers agree on when it comes to investment banking league tables: that they are both nonsense and vital. That is where the accord ends.

“Dealmaking banks will knead, slice and reconstitute M&A data to achieve the best possible league position. For every bank there is a different interpretation of what being “first” really means; every deal, a different account of who really pulled the strings.

“The reason for the interpretive range is simple. M&A bankers, unlike those in fixed income or other non-relationship driven parts of the bank, are ranked on the total value of the deals they worked on. The result is that bankers will claim advisory credit on transactions where their input was negligible or, in some cases, non-existent. Some have become so adroit at attaching themselves to deals that their end of year league position bears only passing resemblance to their actual accomplishments and, moreover, fees.

“The issue of league table manipulation has come back into focus this week via a Bloomberg story that accuses Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the largest and second largest global M&A banks, respectively, of forgoing fees in exchange for league table credit. Neither bank would discuss the story, but both had pre-existing agreements with the company involved that would have entitled them to a role on the deal.”

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Read full Financial Times article here.

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