More news on the Oscars fiasco – a new timeline and why both accountants were banned

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

If you are still interested in the fiasco of handing out the wrong card for best picture at the Academy Awards, here is some more info:

  • New time line of the key moments
  • Why neither accountant will be back at the awards – they both froze
  • A few other ripple effects

3/1 – Daily Mail – Fired by the Academy: Bungling PWC (sic) accountants will NOT be back at the Oscars as new photos show bean-counter Brian juggling multiple envelops AND his phone while gawking at Emma Stone – OK, after that headline, you can take a deep breath.

Apparently, there were a lots of pictures taken backstage, enough to reconstruct much of the few minutes around the fiasco, including where Brian Cullinan was standing and where he was looking.

Apart from the photos in the article, here is the time line that Daily Mail put together:

  • 9:03 – Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway take stage; Mr. Beatty would have been handed the card a few moments before
  • 9:05 – Mr. Beatty opens envelope and pauses, then hands card to Ms. Dunaway
  • 9:05 – timestamp of Twitter post by Brian Cullinan with photo of Emma Stone
  • 9:07 – Ms. Dunaway makes the announcement
  • 9:10 – Mr. Cullinan moves on stage to correct announcement
  • 9:13 – correct winner announced

Two major point from this article and time line.

First, the card for best picture was handed out before the photo was posted on Twitter.

Second, the suggestion is Mr. Cullinan was focused on getting his photo posted to Twitter the moments he should have been listening to the announcement of best picture.

(Before you laugh at Mr. Cullinan, consider how you would like to have the entire world study a moment by moment analysis of your latest faux pas at work.)

3/2 – Washington Post – Here’s why both of the Oscars accountants won’t be back next year – After the Huffington Post interview in which partner Brian Cullinan said resolving an incorrect announcement would be handled on the fly, he checked with two stage managers to verify they would tell him what to do. One stage manager is quoted as saying he told Mr. Cullinan that was incorrect. An error should be corrected immediately even if the partners have to walk on stage to fix it. They should fix it before the incorrect winner reaches the mic.

The stage manager says a minute passed before he and the other stage manager were passing messages between the two partners. Article says Martha Ruiz froze. Both partners are described as disengaged and

“very low-key.”

Stage manager urged Mr. Cullinan to get on stage. He had to be “pushed” to get out on stage to fix the error.

The stage manager described the skills needed for the role the accountants filled. His quote, which under fair use I will quote:

“You need somebody who’s going to be confident and unafraid.”

I severely doubt there is an accountant alive who is strongly confident and boldly unafraid to be the first person ever to instantaneously interrupt the key minute of a live television show watched by 32.9 million people. Would you walk on stage and interrupt the applause?

They froze? For one or two minutes?

Yeah, they froze. As would every other accountant on the planet. And 99.99999% of the rest of the population in the country, including the two presenters. Only the stage managers didn’t freeze.

I hesitate to mention names in my writing. Rarely are the names the point. I will make two exceptions for this post. First, I have mentioned Ms. Ruiz’s name for the first time. Second, because the entire story rests on his report, I’ll mention the stage manager sourcing most of the information here is Gary Natoli, described as a longtime stage manager for the Oscars.

3/3 – Hollywood Reporter – Oscars: The Academy’s Long, Cozy Relationship With Its Accountants – Article recaps the mess. Then a new discussion in the article that I’ve not seen elsewhere raises the possibility of a conflict of interest. Several issues raised:

First, the relationship between the Academy and PwC has existed for 83 years. The article says there is, quoting:

…whispering that the dealings between the Academy and PwC had grown too cozy over the years.”

Translating into accountantese for those watching at home, the phrase ‘too cozy’ raises the familiarity threat discussed in the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct.

Second, the article says the current CFO of the Academy (who is a PwC alum) is married to a current PwC partner. Under AICPA rules, it would be easy to set up a safeguard for that threat to independence.

Third, the article addresses but does not carry forward the disconnect between the $142K of fees charged in 2015 for the audit and tax work compared to the 1,700 hours PwC says a few years ago that they spent in counting the ballots.

Article suggests there is mutual benefit of PwC doing the vote tally for the Academy. Not sure whether that should be categorized with the first or the third issue raised or even whether that is an issue at all.

The article then provides deep background on the history of the awards.

3/2 – Hollywood Reporter – Academy Accountants Hire Security Amid Oscars Crisis – You already knew PwC has hired security for the two partners.

Article says the firm says there are large numbers of people gathering outside the homes of the two partners. Word used in the article is


That means a big crowd.

Before you start chuckling, how would you like a large group of people milling around outside your home because they are irritated with you because of something dumb you did at work?

3/2 – Page Six – Best Picture flub may cost Oscars producer CEO gig – The ripple effects are getting silly…

Buzz in Hollywood is the Oscars producer is a candidate for CEO of Paramount Pictures. However, one unnamed source says he is now out of the running. Not that he did anything wrong. It is merely that the movie company would not want the headlines that would follow him if they brought him on board.

3/3 – The Guardian – At last, a new Oscars cliche: “I’d like to blame all the little people…” – Keep in mind this article is an opinion piece.

The author laments that today we destroy people who make a mistake that catches people’s interest. The two accountants involved are merely the latest examples of utter destruction visited on those who step too far out of line.

Editorial also suggests that the presenter who opened the envelope obviously knew something was wrong, since it was labeled for the best actress award. I also think the wording on the card would have suggested an individual award, not an entire production crew. Author thinks some blame should be placed on him.

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