PwC: At the 89th Oscars

The 2015 Oscars show
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

23 February 2017

Movie fan? Dying to see the Oscars on 26 February? Well, did you know that since 1934, Big Four firm PwC has been responsible for the mighty ballot briefcase and voting process of the world's biggest awards show?

For 83 years, PwC has been trusted to calculate and safeguard the Awards results, and two of their employees are the only people on the planet to know all the results before anyone else; those client confidentiality skills must be fully tested in the run-up to the awards night, by the world's prying eyes!

A few weeks before the awards, the results are packed into two separate briefcases and start their journey to the famed stage, eagerly awaited and watched by over 40m people. 

And like the Olympic torch, the fabled briefcases - affectionately known as Briefy - have made several pit-stops across America as they prepare to reveal the names of the Academy Award winners.

Who represents PwC at the Awards?

Brian Cullinan is PwC's US Board chairman and a partner, managing PwC's Southern California practice. His day to day speciality is advising, auditing and delivering technical accounting for multinational firms, but by the time Oscars season comes around, he takes a lead role in the annual balloting.

He is the lead partner for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “The Oscars balloting process is a symbol of PwC’s culture of integrity and trust,” said Brian. “Each year, the Oscars serve as an immense source of pride for the people of PwC.”

Brian also has a strong similarity in appearance to Matt Damon (pictured together, below), whom he met at the 2016 awards!

He will be joined for a second year by co-leader, Martha L. Ruiz, who is the first woman to tabulate the Oscars for PwC. 

Martha's tax compliance and advisory service for PwC's entertainment, media and communication practice in Southern California has led her to work with the industry for almost 20 years, and she has held a behind-the-scenes role on the Oscar ballot for a decade, prior to her co-leader role.

"PwC’s role in the Oscars balloting process represents the firm’s lasting legacy of utmost accuracy and confidentiality,” said Martha, when asked about her Oscars leadership role in 2015. “It’s an honour to join this esteemed group of PwC balloting leaders to uphold our long-standing relationship with the Academy.”

How the ballots are reported

If you thought you needed perfect memory skills to retain all that great chartered accountancy knowledge, just think of what Brian and Martha need to do: there are no electronic lists of the winners, and it is their job to memorise every single winner from the 24 categories - making a mistake in front of millions of viewers is not an option!

This process for balloting has not changed in decades and the PwC accountants who help collate the data are sworn to secrecy. They also have only three days to tally all votes as they are cast until the Tuesday before the Sunday evening show - all results must be in the briefcases by Saturday.

The briefcases are transported in separate cars with differing routes and held on the left and right-hand sides of the stage in preparation for delivering the awaited-envelopes that could change people's lives.

So there you have it: any PwC CA looking for a future at the Oscars needs to practice their memory, calculation and client confidentiality skills!

Photo credit: Helga Esteb, Shutterstock

You can follow Briefy on Snapchat (@BallotBriefcase), or by using the Twitter hashtag, #BallotBriefcase.

The Oscars show will be broadcast at 4pm (US Pacific Time) on Sunday, 26 February 2017.


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