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New protocols for PwC at Oscars

PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc) is the accounting firm responsible for supervising and securing the Oscar voting.  Last year, there was a (possibly) worst-case mix-up: the wrong film (La La Land) was announced as Best Picture.  Moonlight was the real winner. 


Pondering the obvious objectives for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) engagement, any CPA would probably prioritize the announcement of the correct winner--especially in the Best Picture category. The steps to ensuring this outcome would include voter authentification, controls over ballots and ballot counting, security regarding printing of the cards in the envelopes, as well as envelope security. 


Identifying possible weak links in the system is a primary responsibility for any accounting firm in a similar engagement. Human error is always a consideration. Duplicate envelopes and the distraction of uploading a tweet were factors that contributed to the primary mistake on the part of the pwc partner, Brian Cullinan. One more opportunity existed to catch the mistake of being handed the duplicate envelope for Best Actress (Emma Stone of La La Land). However, a trained auditor was not the next link in the chain. Two actors--Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway--were tasked with making the announcement. Their training for timing, cues and following direction superceded the skill needed the moment that wrong envelope was opened: whistleblowing to expose the mistake. Oops. Once the mistake was noticed by the pwc personnel close at hand, it was handled with clarity and grace.


Inexplicably, pwc was not fired from the engagement. Their track record from decades prior, coupled with their renewed attention to detail and willingness to confront and overcome their error were possibly factors in being able to keep their job. Screenshot 2018-01-24 10.37.13.pngpwc apology tweet


Follow up: 

  • Describe at least three other devasting mistakes that could occur in the supervising and securing of the voting for the Oscars.  What internal controls are (or could be) put into place to lessen the chances of a breach? 
  • What specifically are the new protocols that pwis implementing for this Oscar voting and telecast in 2018?
  • Describe a mistake that you or a colleague has made on the job. How was the exposure and follow-up handled? What lessons were learned?