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(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Treasury Department plans to sell “up to” 1.5 billion shares of Citigroup Inc. in the government’s biggest step yet to exit the 27 percent ownership of the bank it rescued during the financial crisis.

The Treasury will give its agent, Morgan Stanley, “discretionary authority” to sell the amount, and expects to give clearance to sell additional shares thereafter, the department said in an e-mailed statement today. “Treasury will begin selling its common shares in the market in an orderly fashion under a pre-arranged written trading plan.”

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