Oscars keep accountants but ban cellphones

PwC accountant Brian Cullinan backstage at the Oscars. (AP)
PwC accountant Brian Cullinan backstage at the Oscars. (AP)

Los Angeles - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has spared accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers the axe despite the biggest mix-up in Oscars history.

The company took responsibility after the wrong movie was announced as best picture at the 26 February ceremony, blaming two of its staff for the embarrassing error.

"After a thorough review, including an extensive presentation of revised protocols and ambitious controls, the board has decided to continue working with PwC," Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy president, wrote Wednesday in an email to Academy members seen by AFP.

She added that the Academy had been "unsparing in our assessment that the mistake made by representatives of (PwC) was unacceptable."

PwC accountants Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz were in charge of handing out the winning envelopes to presenters at the ceremony.

However a mix-up resulted in Cullinan handing Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway a duplicate of the best actress envelope - instead of the one that showed Moonlight winning best picture.

The snafu marked the most embarrassing mistake in Oscars history, with the musical La La Land briefly declared the winner for best picture before organizers realised the error.

New measures in place

Boone outlined a detailed set of new measures intended to avoid similar errors in the future.

These include stationing a third accountant who will know the winners in advance, and will be able to alert the show's director if there is a mistake.

The Academy had already announced that Cullinan and Ruiz will not return.

Electronic devices will also be banned backstage after it was revealed Cullinan had been tweeting immediately before mixing up envelopes.

PwC has handled Oscar balloting for 83 years, in addition to doing the Academy's taxes.

Next year, the company will take part in rehearsals "for possible onstage issues," and the Academy will add "improvements to onstage envelope category verification," Isaacs said.