Fri | Aug 7, 2020

PwC takes heat for Academy Awards foul-up

Published:Monday | February 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Jordan Horowitz (left), producer of 'La La Land', shows the envelope revealing 'Moonlight' as the true winner of Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Presenter Warren Beatty is part of the revelation.
Moonlight cast members Trevante Rhodes (left) and Ashton Sanders embrace backstage during the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California.


For 82 years, accounting and consulting firm PwC has enjoyed a reputational boon from handling the balloting process at the Academy Awards.

Now, its hard-won image as a dependable partner is under threat.

The company has apologised for a colossal mistake at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday night when actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty wrongly announced that the top Oscar went to La La Land instead of Moonlight.

The presenters, it turned out, had been given the wrong envelope by tabulators PwC, in this case, the one awarding Emma Stone for best actress for her role in La La Land. The representatives from PwC, formerly known as Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, eventually corrected the mistake on air, but it's not clear yet how the wrong envelope ended up in the hands of the Bonnie and Clyde stars.


Crisis management


Crisis managers say that PwC has no other option than to front-up immediately and explain exactly what happened to contain the damage to its reputation and brand and plot a way forward where there's no repeat. PwC, which originated in London over a century ago, was quick to apologise to the movies involved, Beatty, Dunaway, and viewers, but has yet to fully explain what happened.

"The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope, and when discovered, was immediately corrected," it said in a statement. "We are currently investigating how this could have happened and deeply regret that this occurred."

In fact, it took over two minutes on air, during which time the La La Land team gave three acceptance speeches before PwC corrected the mistake on stage.

PwC's representatives were Brian Cullinan, a partner at the firm, and Martha Ruiz, the second woman to serve as a PwC Oscars tabulator.

Cullinan is the lead partner for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including the annual balloting for the Oscars ceremony. He has been part of the balloting team since 2014. Ruiz, a 19-year veteran at PwC who specialises in providing

tax compliance and advisory services to entertainment clients in southern California, joined Cullinan as the Oscars balloting co-leader in 2015.