Editor’s note: This month’s Last Word features two AICPA members. Brad Oltmanns (right) and Rick Rosas (left) of PwC US are the CPAs charged with tabulating the ballots for the Academy Awards, which will be presented Feb. 27 in Hollywood. Oltmanns is chairman of the board of PricewaterhouseCoopers International; Rosas is a tax partner in PwC’s Los Angeles office.
Oltmanns: PwC sends the ballots—almost 6,000—directly to the members of the Academy. They come back to us directly, and about five days before the Oscars, Rick and I assemble a small group of four PwC professionals to assist in the counting. In order to keep the results a secret, we apportion a percentage of ballots to each of the four people. None of them counts an entire category, and they count in a secret location. Rick and I compile the results, and we are the only ones who know the final winners in each of the 24 categories. We also personally prepare the envelopes and put the cards in the envelopes for each category. From start to finish, Rick and I conduct the process to ensure both accuracy as well as confidentiality. We don’t breathe a word to anyone.
Rosas: The balloting process hasn’t changed in the 76 years PwC has been doing it. We do a manual hand count—not electronic—of ballots. It is labor-intensive work that takes approximately three days for us to complete.
Oltmanns: The job actually requires a lot of CPA skills. For instance, organizational skills are a must, because everything has to work flawlessly. You also have to have an eye for detail and be able to train and develop support staff. And of course, one of the hallmarks of our profession is being independent and respecting the confidentiality and importance of the information you are dealing with.
Rosas: Another hallmark of our profession is objectivity, and that’s the fundamental reason PwC was selected to do this back in the 1930s and continues today.
Oltmanns: When we start the ballot-counting process, we experience a sense of anticipation knowing that in just a few short days the results will be shown on worldwide television. Being the only two people who know the results of each category is exciting. And it’s interesting to see how the actual results compare to the speculation that goes on in the media. That’s fun.
Rosas: I have a ritual on Sunday morning of the Oscars. I pull out the Sunday newspaper and read what the pundits think will happen that night. I quietly laugh at the ones that are wrong, as well as the rationalizations of why somebody who I know is not going to win an Oscar will win.
Oltmanns: The day of the Oscars our role is simple: Make sure the envelopes get to the show. To guard against mishaps, we each have a complete set of envelopes in our briefcase, and we also memorize the results—just in case a mistake happens. Luckily, none has. About midday we are picked up in separate cars with security escorts who stay with us all day. We walk the red carpet sometime in the afternoon, give a few press interviews, then go backstage for the duration—me on one side, Rick on the other. Our job is to put the right envelope into the hand of the celebrity presenter just before they announce the winner.
Oltmanns: Aside from the excitement of being a part of the Awards, for me personally, having this role has caused me to become more interested in movies in general. Certainly, I’ve had a chance, because of this role, to see many more movies than I probably would have otherwise, especially foreign films and documentaries. Seeing the films makes the job all the more interesting.
Rosas: Brad and I are aware this role is something that, to a large extent, will define our careers with PwC. It is an incredible honor to represent the firm with this iconic client and to be part of this tradition.
Oltmanns: It is terrific to be involved in an event that is watched around the world. It’s also very gratifying as a CPA to have a role where your ability to deal with confidential information and ensure 100% accuracy is very much needed and valued. It is about as glamorous a job a CPA can have.
—As told to Linda Segall, firstname.lastname@example.org,
a freelance writer from Jacksonville, Fla.
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