Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC on Tuesday said its chief executive, Stephen Hester, has sold part of a final tranche of a controversial share award made when he joined the 83% state-owned bank three years ago, as the stock hit its lowest level since January 2009.

The award was criticized when its existence was disclosed in RBS' annual report the following March.

According to RBS' filing Tuesday, Hester now holds 5.4 million shares in the bank that he could sell at any time. He is eligible for a further 8.6 million shares under a long-term incentive plan put in place last year.

The paper value of all of the shares has fallen from the various times they were awarded.

Since Hester joined, RBS shares hit a low of 19 cents in January 2009 before starting a steady climb as the bank's prospects and the general U.K. economy started brighten through 2009 and 2010. That optimism abruptly reversed this summer, though, as the economy slowed and as the euro-zone debt crisis hit all European banking shares.

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