And the winner is… PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has confirmed that it will continue to use the services of the accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), even after that infamous Oscars snafu.
After the mix-up, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, had announced that the two PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accountants, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, involved in the mistake were barred from working with the event in the future. Isaacs also made it known that the Academy was, at the time, reviewing its relationship with PwC.
This week, in a letter to members of the Academy, Isaacs called a mistake made by the firm’s representatives “unacceptable.” She was, of course, referring to the announcement of the wrong winner for Best Picture at the 89th Annual Academy Awards. Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as the winner after Warren Beatty began, “For Best Picture…” and paused. The stage immediately filled with the cast and crew of La La Land. The problem was, of course, that Moonlight had won best picture.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that Beatty had the wrong envelope: PwC’s Cullinan had given him the wrong envelope. The card inside of the envelope in Beatty’s hand said, “Emma Stone, La La Land” (since he had mistakenly been given the Best Actress envelope).
Immediately after the awards ceremony, PwC issued a statement – and apologized. The next day, Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC, explained, “At the end of the day we made a human error. We made a mistake. What happened was, our partner on the left side of the stage, Brian Cullinan, he handed the wrong envelope to Warren Beatty. And then the second we realized that we notified the appropriate parties and corrected the mistake.”
Despite the mea culpa, it appeared that PwC’s long-standing relationship with the Academy might have been over. And it has been extremely long-standing: PwC has counted the ballots for the Academy for 83 of the last 89 years.
However, Isaacs advised members of the Academy that the Board of Governors voted to keep the accounting firm. There are, however, a few catches. Ruiz and Cullinan will not be back, as Isaacs previously advised. Instead, former ballot handler and PwC partner Rick Rosas will return to his duties together with a second PwC accountant. A third accountant will be placed in the Oscar control room with the show’s producers, as an additional safeguard.
New controls also include a ban on cell phone and other electronics backstage. That’s because it was suggested that Cullinan, who handed the wrong envelope to Beatty, had been distracted from his duties by social media. That evening, he had tweeted and subsequently deleted a picture of Best Actress winner Emma Stone just before the announcement was made for Best Picture.
At the end of the day, the decision, however, was about more than one task. In addition to counting the Oscar ballots, PwC also files the Academy’s tax returns, oversees the organization’s elections, and audits its financial records.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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