The fate of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s darkened early Sunday afternoon after Barclays PLC, the sole remaining bidder for the 158-year-old Wall Street firm, told federal regulators that it is walking away from a transaction, people familiar with the matter say.

With Barclays ending talks and the government balking at putting any taxpayer money at risk for Lehman, the likelihood of a transaction was dimming. That would leave an orderly liquidation as the most likely scenario, a dramatic outcome for a once-powerful firm.

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