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Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s $275 million write-down on auction-rate securities partially collateralized by subprime mortgages was more than just the biggest loss by a nonfinancial company related to subprime investments: It has become the stimulus to reopen the debate on whether corporate treasuries should operate as a cost center or, on the other end of the spectrum, a profit center. Jeff Wallace, managing partner at Greenwich Treasury Advisors, sums it up: “Is it treasury’s job to take trading risks to bolster the bottom line, or should it be assuming a more conservative posture of preserving capital and keeping the company’s cash liquid and available?”

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