Commentary

PwC Accepts The Oscar Blame; Reputation Facing Rehab

Add “tweeting while handing out Oscar-winner envelopes” to the ever-expanding list of social media faux pas to be avoided by brand stewards and everyday thumbsters everywhere. 

To recount, “in a gaffe that stunned the Dolby Theatre crowd in Hollywood and a television audience worldwide,” as Reuters puts it, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accountant and partner Brian Cullinan “mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture” to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway Sunday night. 

“Less than 24 hours since the most notorious fubar in Oscar history,” writes Gregg Kilday for the Hollywood Reporter “… PwC on Monday sent out what it called a ‘revised statement’ in which it squarely shoulders the blame for the incident, cites PwC partner Brian Cullinan for the mistake and offers another apology to all involved in the embarrassing drama that played out on national television."

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But it may have left a detail or two out of the press release.

“Just minutes before he gave Mr. Beatty the wrong envelope, Brian Cullinan, one of two PwC partners working backstage at the show, tweeted a glamorous photo of [Emma Stone], report Ben Fritz, Michael Rapoport and Erich Schwartzel for the Wall Street Journal. “‘Best Actress Emma Stone backstage! #PWC!’ he posted, along with the photo, at 9:05 p.m. Pacific time. About three minutes later, Mr. Beatty and Ms. Dunaway walked on stage to announce the evening’s top prize.

“Mr. Cullinan’s backstage Twitter activity wasn’t sanctioned by the Academy, according to a person familiar with the matter. He’d sought permission to post to social media during the show, but had been turned down, this person added, because his job was only to distribute and verify the envelopes containing the closely guarded names of winners,” the WSJ’s report continues.

Oh, and don’t go braggin’ on yourself either. 

“One of two accounting honchos in charge of handing out the winners’ envelopes at the Oscars Sunday night jinxed himself in an interview earlier this month,” points out Kate Sheehy for PageSix.com. “‘It doesn’t sound very complicated, but you have to make sure you give the presenter the right envelope,” Brian Cullinan, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the Web site Medium in a story published Feb. 10,” Sheehy continues.

“We check things dozens of times, recounts and double-checks,” Cullinan said. “We’ll have staff go back two and three times to make sure, and then [PWC partner] Martha [Ruiz] and I will review and recount to ensure there are no differences between what we have and they had. So far, there’s never been a problem.”

“Most public accounting firms can quickly file a Form 1040X to revise a filing error in your tax return, or can assist in restating earnings on an 1120X if a company's chief financial officer should get it wrong. Most of those errors are easily corrected and, for the most part, little known outside of the financial community,” writes James S. O'Rourke, professor of management and director of the Fanning Center for Business Communication in the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, for the Chicago Tribune.

“Not so with an Academy Award. This one was public, live and enormously embarrassing. It's not Arthur Andersen certifying the earnings of Enron, but it's pretty bad.”

After an initial brief apology issued in the wee hours Monday, PwC did what O’Rouke said it must do to begin restoring its reputation: It determined the facts an issued “a resolution never to allow such a publicly humiliating event to occur again.”

On ABC, “Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel used his regular late-night show on Monday to explain how the chaos unfolded, explaining that Beatty had made Dunaway read out the winner because he was worried it might not be right,” Bonnie Malkin reports for the Guardian.

“Clyde threw Bonnie under a bus; it was a slick move,” he said.

“Kimmel said he had been just as confused as everyone else on stage,” Malkin continues. “‘Who the hell knows who’s who from each movie,’ he said. ‘I’m feeling bad for these guys and also trying really hard not to laugh.’”

“I have spoken with the Academy and expressed our apologies and accountability, and I am in the process of reaching out to the other affected parties,” Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC, tellsUSA Today’s Maria Puente and Andrea Mandell. 

“Not to worry, says Anthony Sabino, a law professor at St. John’s University’s Peter J. Tobin College of Business,” they write. “It was a ‘black eye’ for PwC, but black eyes heal. He predicts no long-lasting effects.”

“While all the facts are not in yet, it would appear to be simple human error,” Sabino tells Puente and Mandell. “After decades of flawless performance, it was bound to happen eventually. For an event as complex and as secretive as the Academy Awards, PwC's sterling record still stands out.”

But it may want to refrain from tweeting about it for the nonce.

1 comment about "PwC Accepts The Oscar Blame; Reputation Facing Rehab".
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  1. Tom Tyler from GCTVTexas, March 1, 2017 at 11:37 a.m.

    Lolol! :D This whole affair reads like some ancient skit from Second City TV. :D

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