It was the biggest mistake made in all of the 89 years of the Academy Awards, and it was made live in front of millions. The accountants who are charged with making the grave error are Brian Cullinan, and Martha Ruiz, both of PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (PwC). Both have reportedly been in fear for their very lives since the night of the Oscars.


They are aware the mistake could have cost them their careers. Instead, it just severed their relationship with the Academy. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President, has advised the pair will not be welcomed to perform accounting services for the Oscars again. PwC has enjoyed a longstanding relationship tabulating the votes necessary to render the all important decisions for the Oscar awards for more than 80 years.


To what degree that relationship has changed remains to be seen. While both accountants were standing on either side of the stage when the mix-up occurred, it is speculated that Cullinan was the one who handed the wrong envelope to Warren Beatty. Mention has been made of the envelopes redesign this year, and it is believed that could have played a role in the confusion.


Martha L. Ruiz, left, and Brian Cullinan from PricewaterhouseCoopers at the Oscars in Los Angeles. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

However the mistake happened, the brunt of it will be endured by the accountants who made it. Information of their home addresses and personal information have been leaked through the internet, and they have received death threats through social media. PwC, their employer, has hired protection for their safety. It has been stated that although they will not work the Oscars again after four years as partners tabulating the votes, they will not lose their jobs as accountants for PwC.


It should be noted that PwC took full responsibility for the error, however, their 83-year relationship with the Academy is now under scrutiny. PwC has offices all over California, the nation, and they are internationally known. Their code of conduct page talks about their purpose and values as a company.


Under the section entitled, “Speak Up,” it states, “Speaking up is crucial to our culture and our long term results—it is a living example of our values. Speaking up when something doesn’t seem right demonstrates our integrity and that we have the courage to do the right thing. Speaking up helps to prevent mistakes and misconduct and foster innovation.” Maybe Ruiz should give this page a little more review, since she chose to say and do nothing.


Do you think Cullinan and Ruiz deserve to lose their jobs after this big mistake? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.