OOPS!

Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers: ‘We made a mis­take’ at Oscars.

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Maria Puente and An­drea Man­dell

The ac­coun­tants did it? We all watched in shock as it hap­pened. Now we know ex­actly what hap­pened.

Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers, which has han­dled the ac­count­ing for the Academy Awards since 1934, apol­o­gized early Mon­day for giv­ing the wrong en­ve­lope to pre­sen­ters War­ren Beatty and Faye Du­n­away be­fore the two ac­tors an­nounced

La La Land as best pic­ture at Sun­day night’s Oscars. Ac­tu­ally,

Moon­light won the top prize. In Beatty’s hand was a spare best-ac­tress en­ve­lope. Emma Stone al­ready had been given her win­ning en­ve­lope, but two sets are printed: one for each of the two PwC rep­re­sen­ta­tives who wait in the wings to dis­trib­ute the en­velopes to pre­sen­ters.

“At the end of the day, we made a hu­man er­ror,” Tim Ryan, U.S. chair­man and se­nior part­ner of PwC told USA TO­DAY on Mon­day. “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.”

But the La La Land speeches al­ready had been given, and the cel­e­brat­ing had be­gun. “We apol­o­gize to the cast of

La La Land for hav­ing to have made those speeches in the time it took to (cor­rect it),” Ryan says. “Im­me­di­ately when it was an­nounced, again, be­cause of our mis­take, both our part­ners who knew who the win­ner was — and they’re the only two who know — they re­al­ized the mis­take.

“It was a lit­tle chaotic and just took time to get out on­stage and let peo­ple know the mis­take was made. And un­for­tu­nately that took enough time to get through 21⁄2 ac­cep­tance speeches.”

It’s puz­zling be­cause the Os­car process — count­ing the votes, de­ter­min­ing the win­ners, fill­ing the en­velopes, pack­ing two brief­cases, tot­ing them to the cer­e­mony, hand­ing the en­velop­ers to pre­sen­ters — is long-es­tab­lished.

Be­fore the show, Cul­li­nan, who is chair­man of PwC’s U.S. board, and Martha Ruiz, a tax part­ner at PwC, de­scribed how the win­ning en­velopes are han­dled.

Af­ter vot­ing closes a week be­fore the show, ac­coun­tants start tab­u­lat­ing, which takes about three days. Se­crecy and ac­cu­racy are the watch­words. “None of our team mem­bers see more than a por­tion of the bal­lots in any cat­e­gory. The fi­nal tab­u­la­tion of the win­ners is only done by the two of us,” Cul­li­nan and Ruiz wrote in The Huff­in­g­ton Post.

They check and recheck, then in­sert two sets of the cards declar­ing the win­ners into sealed en­velopes, which are se­cured in a se­cret lo­ca­tion un­til they are brought to the show.

“We are both back­stage to hand the en­velopes to the pre­sen­ters. We also mem­o­rize Ev­ery. Sin­gle. Win­ner. In. Ev­ery. Sin­gle. Cat­e­gory. The win­ners’ names are not typed into a com­puter or writ­ten down, to avoid po­ten­tial lost slips of pa­per or breaches of se­cu­rity,” Cul­li­nan and Ruiz said.

Here’s where it gets even more fas­ci­nat­ing: It could only have been a Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers rep who gave the wrong en­ve­lope to Beatty and Du­n­away. Back­stage, Cul­li­nan and Ruiz “hand each en­ve­lope di­rectly to the pre­sen­ter in each cat­e­gory. We are po­si­tioned on ei­ther side of the stage, so we can hand en­velopes from stage right or stage left.”

Ryan says he has apol­o­gized to the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences and is con­tact­ing the pro­duc­ers of La La Land and Moon­light.

But not to worry, says An­thony Sabino, a law pro­fes­sor at St. John’s Univer­sity’s Peter J. Tobin Col­lege of Busi­ness. It was a “black eye” for PwC, but black eyes heal.

“Af­ter decades of flaw­less per­for­mance, it was bound to hap­pen even­tu­ally,” he says. “For an event as com­plex and as se­cre­tive as the Academy Awards, PwC’s ster­ling record still stands out.”

“At the end of the day, we made a hu­man er­ror. ... It was a lit­tle chaotic and just took time to get out on­stage.” Tim Ryan, Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers

CHRIS PIZZELLO, INVISION/AP

Speeches al­ready had be­gun as Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers reps and stage man­agers gather around what turned out to be the wrong en­ve­lope.

ROBERT DEUTSCH, USA TO­DAY

Pre­sen­ter War­ren Beatty and host Jimmy Kim­mel, left, try to re­store or­der af­ter the best-pic­ture mix-up Sun­day night.

INVISION/AP

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