The Securities and Exchange Commission pressed Bank of America Corp. during enforcement talks to give shareholders more power to oust directors, after years of struggling to pass similar rules covering all U.S. companies, people with direct knowledge of the effort said.

Bank of America persuaded the SEC to drop the "proxy access" provision as they negotiated a $150 million settlement of a lawsuit tied to the takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co., the people said. They declined to be identified because talks that led to the Feb. 4 accord were private.

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