How PwC can be an Oscar winner

I’m not a betting man but twice in my life I’ve been tempted to make a bet, and really regretted not putting my money where my mouth it. The first was when Bradford City played Chelsea in the FA Cup two seasons ago and I saw a Bantams win priced at 20 to 1. While I had no confidence City would win, I felt 20 to 1 was too high in a two horse race. As City’s third goal went in I was kicking myself.

And so it was with La La Land. My wife had seen it in preview and said it wasn’t all that good. I thought it might not win but in the end couldn’t decide which film might beat it. Moonlight apparently was at 6 to 1.

Almost every commentator has latched onto PwC’s error in passing the wrong envelope to Faye Dunnaway and Warren Beatty, talking about “lasting brand damage”. But take a deep breath and put yourself in the shoes of an audit committee for a large corporation, or the M&A director of a multinational.

They might view that counting the votes for an awards ceremony isn’t really a core activity for a global accounting firm. They could say that as this isn’t exactly a role that really needs PwC, and that its appointment is more of an accident of history than an activity that, if you decided to hire someone tomorrow, you would turn to PwC to perform.

The problem is that if you ask the likes of PwC to take on a task like counting the votes at the Oscars, they see the publicity value and behave like Yosser Hughes in the classic BBC drama Boys from the Blackstuff saying “I can do that” even if he isn’t qualified.

If PwC was smart, they would bow out gracefully – saying that this error has brought a realisation that it is time for a change, and that they will assist the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in finding some organisation that is better suited to this role. By doing this they would:

  1. Get Brownie points for doing the right thing;
  2. Scupper the chances of EY, Deloitte or KPMG getting the gig.

The reason why PwC started this work is lost in the mists of time. It has continued it for the good publicity. Now that has turned bad PwC has the opportunity to secure some good publicity from exiting gracefully.

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