Why PwC Was Involved in the 2017 Oscars Best Picture Mix-Up

February 27, 2017, 2:20 PM UTC

So why did the presenter for the Oscar’s Best Picture category have a Steve Harvey moment Sunday night?

Well, it may have something to do with a name not often associated with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood: Accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, or PwC.

For the past 83 years, PwC has been responsible for counting the 6,000 Oscar votes from members of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and at the 89th Oscars ceremony on Sunday, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway crowned La La Land as the best picture of the year, two accountants from the firm were panicking backstage. That’s because the presenters had received the envelope for Best Actress (which Emma Stone won for her work in La La Land). The actual winner for Best Picture was Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.

PwC is one of the Big Four accounting firms (alongside KPMG, Deloitte, and Ernst and Young), which help audit company balance sheets and plan their taxes. The Big Four count most of the biggest companies in the world among their clients; PwC alone works for 82% of Fortune 500 firms.

When it comes to the Academy Awards, PwC tabulators aim to prevent Oscar leaks to the public by memorizing the Academy Awards results, and personally stuffing the envelopes containing the winners’ names. They then hand the sealed results to presenters backstage. Two accountants from the firm, Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, were the only two people who knew the real winners before the awards last night.



After Sunday night’s mix-up, PwC issued a statement apologizing for the error, saying it was looking into the incident.

“We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture,” the accounting firm said in a statement. “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.”