Academic Awards Scandal that Leads PwC to Handle the Voting Results

When we think of Academy Awards, it's very likely that the word 'accountant' doesn't come to our mind. As we know, the Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. But did you know that accountants play a very important role in the Academy Awards?

It all started in the 1930s when Bette Davis, an american actress, failed to receive a nomination for her critically acclaimed role in Of Human Bondage, a film adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel made by the rival studio RKO. This caused a public uproar because she really did a good job in the movie. LIFE magazine called it “Probably the best performance ever recorded on the screen by a U.S. actress.” 

Rumors started to spread that producers had interfered in the voting results. This enraged actors even more, as the 1930s were an era when creative labor was only beginning to unionize. When this chaos goes on, a new problem arises as the Academy sees accusations of fraudulent tabulating. 

That same year, the Academy hired Price Waterhouse to step in the next year to count votes and ensure the secrecy of the results. (Price Waterhouse later became PricewaterhouseCoopers through a merger.)

So what is the role of the accountant? The Oscar ballots, including printed electronically submitted ones, are hand-counted and verified by the PwC Oscars team at a secret, undisclosed location. According to Martha Ruiz, PwC Tax Partner, the counting process needs around nine to ten individuals and takes approximately 1700 work-hours. Each member of the team tabulates only a portion of the votes so they won’t know the final results. Only PwC partners put everything together in the end to determine who the winners are. To avoid potential slips of paper or security breaches, the winners' names are not entered into a computer or written down. So, the PwC partners will have to commit those results to memory.

They will quiz each other in the last hours before the event to ensure that they have correctly memorized the winners in each category. They'll next go through all of the preprinted cards for all of the nominees, choose the ones that list each of the winners, and stuff the envelopes with them. Once at the event, they will take their respective positions backstage to hand the envelopes to the celebrity presenters during the live event.