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CPAs at the Academy Awards

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The Academy Awards have had CPA firms counting the ballots since 1933. Here is why.

The Academy Awards started in 1929 and quickly lost credibility with the public believing the awards were not honestly determined. To regain integrity the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse was engaged in 1933 to conduct the election and count the ballots. In 1941, a sealed envelope was used to present the results. When the awards started being televised in 1953 Price Waterhouse was mentioned as the accounting firm overseeing the balloting possibly making them the most well-known public accounting firm at that time and for many years thereafter.

There is now a burgeoning complement of award shows and each uses an independent accounting firm to oversee the balloting process. This is even made part of the program with the announcement of the firm and sometimes the appearance of the crew. This year there was a credit at the end of the program.

A hallmark of the public accounting profession is independence. “Independence” means the firm, its partners and certain family members and staff can have no investment, creditor, management, interest or other involvement in the company or outcome being audited. The independence requirements are provided by federal securities laws and applicable rules and regulations of the SEC and the PCAOB as well as state regulators that license CPAs and our professional associations. Independence is a cornerstone of our professional ethics. The requirement of independence when we perform an audit is necessary to maintain the trust the financial markets place when relying on the financial statements we audit. This independence is hammered home to us in every attestation function we perform in addition to reporting on financial statements. It includes review statements, forensic investigations, business valuations, and prospective and forecasted statements. In some situations where it is not absolutely necessary that we be independent, we usually must state our lack of independence putting a user on notice.

The CPA profession has expanded into many services that are considered nontraditional and in many cases, our independence is no longer essential. However, this has been so ingrained into us in training and through practice that we carry as much objectivity and independence as we could into everything we do. This is important since our profession enjoys a high degree of trust by the general public when we are associated with any type of report bearing our imprint.

The Academy Awards engaged a CPA firm to provide assurance of objectivity, proper voting, and a fair result. That is our role there and CPAs do it daily in everything we do. We have truly become the public’s trusted guardians and advisors.

Do not hesitate to contact me with any business or financial questions at emendlowitz@withum.com or fill out the form below.

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