The Securities and Exchange Commission may be setting forces into motion that will bring the battle for shareholder access to the proxy statement back into court—three months after the SEC approved a rule to kill proxy access for at least another year.

SEC staff earlier this month issued no-action letters to numerous companies, including Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase, and E*Trade—all saying the Commission had no objection to the companies keeping shareholder proposals for more access out of the proxy statement. The commissioners voted in November to clarify Rule 14a-8(i)(8) of the Securities Exchange Act to say that companies can exclude ...