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Deadlocked battle between P&G and activist Peltz about to get more vicious in the 'snake pit'

  • Hedge-fund billionaire Nelson Peltz won a proxy vote recount for a board seat with Procter & Gamble after the company said the initial tally showed he lost.
  • The fight is now likely headed to the so-called snake pit.
  • In the snake pit, the proxy solicitors and outside counsel for either side will look at whether they're counting the most recent vote and for other discrepancies like whether the ballot was signed appropriately.
  • P&G shares were up 1.2 percent Thursday on the potential Peltz win, but the "snake pit" will likely determine the winner.

The latest recount tally showed that activist investor Nelson Peltz inched out a win for a board seat at Procter & Gamble. But the proxy fight is not over until it's over.

Next, the two sides will descend into the "snake pit."

That's the rare process by which advisers for P&G and Peltz's Trian Partners will hunker down into a room and review each contested vote to ensure that it's valid. Unlike political elections, shareholders can vote as many times as they like for director nominees, with only the last ballot counting toward the tally.

In the snake pit, the proxy solicitors and outside counsel for either side will look at whether they're counting the most recent vote and for other discrepancies like whether the ballot was signed appropriately.

IVS Associates, the independent inspector of elections, found in Wednesday's preliminary recount that Peltz won by a matter of 42,780 votes. That represents .0016 percent of the company's outstanding shares. To put that into perspective, the margin is equivalent to just 5,000 people swaying an election where every person in the U.S. was eligible to vote.

The two sides have spent $60 million combined on the proxy fight, which may incentivize each of them to pore over every last ballot through the "snake pit" process.

Investors in the consumer products giant with a market value of $223 billion have a lot at stake as well. P&G shares jumped as much as 3 percent in after hours trading Wednesday after word came out Trian had won the recount. The stock was up 1.2 percent in early trading Thursday as investors asses their chances in the snake pit.

In a statement yesterday, Trian urged P&G to concede.

"Trian strongly urges P&G to accept the inspector's tabulation and not waste further time and shareholder money contesting the outcome of the annual meeting," they wrote. "Shareholders have voted, and they have indicated that they want Nelson Peltz to join the board."

But P&G indicated that it would wait for the final results before claiming defeat.

"The results are still preliminary and are subject to a review and challenge period during which both parties have the opportunity to review the results for any discrepancies."

Regardless of what happens in the "snake pit," it's clear that this fight has an unprecedented level of venom.