PwC keeps job counting Oscar ballots

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to retain PricewaterhouseCoopers as its official Oscar ballot accounting firm, despite the high-profile snafu last month in which the wrong Best Picture winner was announced.

The Academy’s board of governors reportedly decided during a six-hour meeting Tuesday night to keep its relationship with PwC, according to the Hollywood Reporter. PwC spokesperson Caroline Nolan confirmed to Accounting Today that the firm has been retained.

The relationship dates back to 1934 between the Academy and PwC’s predecessor firm, Price Waterhouse. However, it was strained last month when PwC partner Brian Cullinan accidentally handed the wrong envelope to Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, instead giving them the envelope for the winner of the Best Actress award, Emma Stone for “La La Land” (see PwC apologizes for Oscars fiasco).

After a few moments of confusion, Dunaway announced the winner was “La La Land.” As the "La La Land" producers began to give their acceptance speeches, another PwC partner, Martha Ruiz, rushed onstage to tell them the Best Picture award was supposed to go to “Moonlight” instead, but it was too late.

Cullinan, who has been called a lookalike for actor Matt Damon, had been tweeting photos he took backstage of Stone after she accepted her award only minutes earlier and may have been distracted. He reportedly had been warned not to take photos and use social media after being caught doing so at a previous Oscar ceremony.

Both Cullinan and Ruiz will no longer be assigned the job of working at the Oscars. Instead the job will revert back to PwC partner Rick Rosas, who held the coveted task from 2002 to 2013 before Cullinan and Ruiz took over. Other PwC employees will also be on hand now, including a third person who will be in the control room monitoring the proceedings in order to act more promptly in case of a mistake. PwC U.S. chairman Tim Ryan, who has apologized for the gaffe, will take on a greater role in overseeing the work. From now on, all of PwC’s accountants will have to hand in their electronic devices before they are allowed backstage. PwC’s accountants will also have to participate in dress rehearsals. The Academy also plans to review the procedures and protocols on a regular basis to make sure there are no further fiascos.

“Heading into our 84th year working with PwC, a partnership that is important to the Academy, we’ve been unsparing in our assessment that the mistake made by representatives of the firm was unacceptable,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs wrote in an email to members Wednesday. She noted that the Academy and PwC have reviewed their relationship and agreed to retain the firm.

“Last night the Board of Governors met for the first time following what was, in so many ways, the most extraordinary and memorable Oscars ceremony in decades,” she wrote. “As you may know, the Board meets approximately six times a year to discuss the business of the Academy. After a thorough review, including an extensive presentation of revised protocols and ambitious controls, the Board has decided to continue working with PwC.”

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