After 2017 Debacle, the Accounting Firm Adopts Real Reforms to Keep Its Oscar Gig
2/25/19 – – Ever since the 89th Academy Awards, I get nervous watching the ceremony on television. It’s not the suspense over which stars will win or trip walking onto the stage that gets to me. No. It’s the drama backstage that diverts my attention.
You may recall that on February 28, 2017, in front of 33 million viewers, executives of the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) somehow screwed up the evening’s most dramatic moment. Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land had won the Oscar for Best Picture. Not so fast. After the cast and crew of La La Land began their emotional acceptance speeches on stage, we learned that Moonlight was the real winner.
Turns out a PwC partner named Brian Cullinan had handed Mr. Beatty the wrong envelope back stage. Oops. No one was hurt or killed here. But there certainly was enough embarrassment to fill a Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow!
Realizing their predicament, PwC issued this statement:
For the past 83 years, the Academy has entrusted PwC with the integrity of the awards process during the ceremony, and last night we failed the Academy.
After begging the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for forgiveness and proposing new procedures, PwC kept the prestigious gig as the Oscar’s official accounting firm. Announcing the Academy’s decision to retain PwC, the organization’s President Cheryl Boone Isaacs explained, “After a thorough review, including an extensive presentation of revised protocols and ambitious controls, the board has decided to continue working with PwC.”
One of the logistical reforms adopted by PwC was on display last night during the telecast of the 91st Academy Awards.
Returning from a commercial break for the announcement of the final Oscar for Best Picture, a live shot focused on a tuxedoed PwC representative backstage confidently handing a red sealed envelope with the bold white lettering “BEST PICTURE” to the celebrity presenter Julia Roberts. Bravo, I thought to myself. As the cast and crew of Best Picture “Green Book” began their acceptance speeches without incident, the crisis counselor in me saw that flawless exchange (and the foolproof labeling on the envelope) as evidence of PwC’s real reforms and solid recovery from crisis.
In Chapter 12 of The Crisis Preparedness Quotient – Measuring Your Readiness to Weather a Reputational Storm (“The Five Rs of Crises Response”), we examine the importance of adopting and following through on meaningful reforms to break a cycle of crisis. Only adequate reforms quiet storms. After seeing that brilliant red envelope last night, my bet is that PwC will never screw up the Oscars again.
I might even be able to relax next year during the broadcast — at least until the next Oscar recipient comes onstage with notes for his or her acceptance remarks that look more like the endless printed receipt that spits out at you at CVS. That will always make me nervous!