PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting operation inside the PwC consulting and accounting group, has handled vote counts and Oscar ballots for 83 years. Last night, at the Academy Awards ceremony, PricewaterhouseCoopers undercut its reputation when the wrong Best Picture ballot was given to presenters. The blow to the firm is incalculable. The Oscars have to be the event that gives PricewaterhouseCoopers its most visible presence with the public throughout the year.
What apparently happened was that Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given an envelope with an incorrect winner. It turned out that “Moonlight” won, and not “La La Land,” the name of which was first read. PricewaterhouseCoopers issued an apology.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has evolved considerably since it first handled Oscar ballots. Its official name now is PwC, changed to show that its “brand” involves far more than audits. The company has over 223,000 employees in 156 countries. Just over 10,000 have the highest level job, which is called “partner.” The firm added 58,000 employees in 2016. Annual revenue was $39.5 billion in 2016, up 7% from the previous year. Only $14.9 billion of this revenue comes from the U.S. operations. Western Europe brings in $12.4 billion. The company also breaks out revenue for several other regions: the Middle East, Australia and the Pacific Islands, South and Central America, and Eastern and Central Europe.
Tax accounting is the smallest of the PwC key businesses. It brings in $9.1 billion. Advisory operations bring in $11.5 billion; assurance $15.3 billion. PwC works for governments, non-governmental organizations, nonprofits and companies.
PwC is actually a number of firms knit together:
In many parts of the world, the right to practise audit and accountancy is granted only to firms that are majority-owned by locally qualified professionals. PwC is a global network of separate firms, operating locally in countries around the world.
PwC firms are members of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited and have the right to use the PricewaterhouseCoopers name. As members of the PwC network, PwC firms share knowledge, skills and resources. This membership facilitates PwC firms to work together to provide high-quality services on a global scale to international and local clients, while retaining the advantages of being local businesses – including being knowledgeable about local laws, regulations, standards and practices.
PwC has an entire section of its website that covers its relationship with the Oscars. One look at it shows how critical the event is to the firm’s U.S. brand. The people within PricewaterhouseCoopers had to make a shocking statement. It is one that will dog their image, negatively, for decades to come:
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 presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.
We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.
So much for the value of the Oscars to the PricewaterhouseCoopers brand.