Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. both decided last month that it was worth losing millions of dollars in fees to get credit on a big merger they didn’t work on, four people with knowledge of the matter said.

The investment banks asked for credit in league tables—rankings of advisers on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) maintained by both Bloomberg LP and Dealogic—for working on the $25 billion sale of Forest Laboratories Inc. to Actavis Inc. last month. Neither actually had a role on the deal, said the people who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.

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