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One night in 1982, a group of bankers from Drexel Burnham Lambert gathered at the Quilted Giraffe, a nouvelle cuisine restaurant in New York frequented by Warren Beatty and Jackie Onassis.

The financiers were there to celebrate a junk-bond deal that got away. They’d worked with Sparkman Energy Corp. for months, but the natural gas pipeline company had stopped returning their calls. Contractual terms that Drexel was proposing for the bond, particularly investor protections known as covenants, had been deemed too strict, says Vince Pisano, an attorney who worked on the deal.

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