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Accountants involved in Oscar flub never to return

Mar 03,2017
LOS ANGELES - The president of the film academy says the two accountants responsible for the best-picture flub at Sunday’s Academy Awards will never work the Oscars again. She also laments that the error overshadowed a show that celebrated a rich diversity of talent and storytelling.

Breaking her silence four days after the biggest blunder in the 89-year history of the Academy Awards, Cheryl Boone Isaacs praised the show’s producers and host Wednesday for “a most beautiful, beautiful, wonderful evening.”

“Then, of course, there was the last 90 seconds,” Boone Isaacs said. “And what angered me, I would say, in these last couple days is (the focus on) this 90 seconds and moving to the side the brilliance of the day.”

The academy president told The Associated Press that Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the PwC accountants who handled the winners’ envelopes at Sunday’s show, have been permanently removed from all film academy dealings.

While Cullinan was responsible for handing over the errant envelope that led to “La La Land” mistakenly being announced as best picture rather than “Moonlight,” PwC said both partners failed to follow protocols and did not act quickly enough to catch the error.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ relationship with PwC, which has been responsible for tallying and revealing Oscar winners for 83 years, remains under review, Boone Isaacs said.

Cullinan was distracted backstage, she said. He tweeted (and later deleted) a photo of Emma Stone in the wings with her new Oscar minutes before giving presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope for best picture.

“They have one job to do. One job to do!” Boone Isaacs said. “Obviously there was a distraction.”

PwC released a statement late Sunday and another Monday taking “full responsibility for the series of mistakes and breaches of established protocols” during the Oscar show.

“Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner,” the statement said. Both partners remain with the company, a PwC spokesman said Wednesday.

Protocols for handling the winners’ envelopes had been established by the accounting firm, Boone Isaacs said, “and they have worked for 83 years.”

“We are reviewing those protocols, of course,” she said. “Because it never happened before and we never are going to have it happen again. And we are setting new guidelines, new protocols and really re-examining every step to make sure this never ever, ever happens.”

Though the academy released a statement late Monday apologizing to the artists of “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” Boone Isaacs said she waited to say more until her team had a better understanding of what led to the error.

“You need to get some facts under your belt,” she said. “It needs to be not just an emotional response. It needs to have some sort of clarity... We wanted to say something right away, but we also didn’t want to misspeak.”

She commended show producers Jennifer Todd and Michael De Luca, presenters Beatty and Dunaway and host Jimmy Kimmel for handling the unprecedented situation so gracefully.

“Warren, he took charge there,” Boone Isaacs said. “He took charge of a situation that he did not create.”

She also lauded “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz, who she said “went from a nominee to a winner to a presenter” in a matter of minutes. AP