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January 14, 2008

PwC partners lead Oscar balloting team

PricewaterhouseCoopers US (PwC) partners Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas will be the only people to know the identity of the Oscar winners before they are revealed at the live telecast on 24 February 2008. Brad Oltmanns, PwC US The pair has been chosen as ballot leaders for the Academy Awards, the 74th year the Big Four firm has managed the balloting process. Oltmanns has served at PwC for 28 years and is in charge of managing 1,200 staff in Los Angeles. Rosas has worked at the firm for 12 years and was appointed tax partner in 2001. This is his seventh year involved in the balloting process.

The partners will lead a ‘closed-mouth’ group of accountants, who will count each ballot by hand from a secret location. Approximately 6,000 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members are included in the balloting procedure, which takes approximately 1,700 hours each year.

The academy uses a preferential voting system in the nomination phase of balloting, which was first adopted in 1936 to ensure that each voter had an opportunity to influence the results. The system, originally designed for elections, produces five nominees for each category. Ballots are mailed to voting members and returned a few weeks later. The PwC team then determines the nominees and delivers the results to the academy. After the nominations have been announced, final voting takes place.

Oltmanns explained: “As a precautionary measure, two complete sets of envelopes bearing the recipients’ names are prepared. Rick and I take them to the ceremony via separate, secret routes. As a secondary precautionary measure, we also memorise the names of the respective award winners. Identities of Oscar recipients are kept strictly confidential until they are announced during the live telecast, during which Rick and I remain backstage and hand the envelopes to award presenters immediately before they walk onstage.”

During PwC’s association with the awards, only 12 partners have been employed to lead the ballot process. Oltmanns, now in his fourth year of co-leading the balloting process, told TA there have been some individuals who have tried to scoop some inside information in the past. “People kid around with us sometimes, like the time actor Chevy Chase jokingly offered Frank Johnson, a long-time former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner on the project, $1,000 for the name of one of the winners. Frank, of course, declined Chevy’s offer,” he said. 

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