What Do EY and the Emmys Have in Common?

Did you know that without Ernst & Young, there would be no Emmy Awards Show? The Big 4 firm has been responsible for tabulating Emmy votes for almost a quarter century. 

For those of you who took a break from CPA Exam studies and tuned into the 2012 Emmy Awards Show, you may have noticed a not-so-subtle CPA shout out. Famed cast members of The Big Bang Theory Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Leonard (John Galecki), and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) starred in a skit brimming with accounting-related banter that gave the staff at Roger CPA Review quite a chuckle. Check it out!

“C-P-A! C-P-A! C-P-A!”

Also, check this Wall Street Journal interview with Andy Sale, the 25-year EY employee who’s overseen the Emmy Awards Show voting process for the past 10 years.

The Wall Street Journal: Walk us through the process of tabulating the Emmy votes.

Andy Sale: They are batched and scanned using an electronic scanning machine. We resolve all discrepancies through scanning the ballots multiple times. We will then go through a process of inspecting the ballots and tabulating the results, and that process is done on three separate occasions. Were talking about well over 20,000 pieces of paper that we process on an annual basis. It is a laborious process.

Is there a risk of hanging chads or other kinds of ballot controversy?

We are very proud to say in our 22 years of serving the [Academy of Television Arts & Sciences], we’ve never had a security breach or a discrepancy such as that. But the attention to detail that is necessary to ensure that the votes are accurate is something we never take for granted.

What kind of precautions do you take to make sure the results stay secret?

Those ballots get locked in a special place that no one in our firm has access to but for a few individuals involved in the process. They do their work in a private room off limits to other members of our firm. It is a windowless room that remains locked throughout the process. The information that were working on does not reside on a network computer; it is completely taken offline. We have [multiple] people working on it, but they’re working with partial data sets. The final results are known only to the few individuals responsible for transporting the results on stage. I personally am involved in the gluing and the assemblage of the envelopes. The preparation of the winners envelopes is done by me. I personally seal them.

Do you prefer licking the envelopes shut, or are you a sponge guy?

We use gold seals and attractive ribbons. The winners of this award often like that envelope as a souvenir, so we take some care into making sure that they have a collectors item.

How many people at Ernst & Young know the Emmy winners in advance?

You can count them on less than one hand. Nobody touches any of the results other than the Ernst and Young representatives until the time the presenter walks out on stage with the envelope.

You also get to attend the Emmy awards ceremony every year. Whats that like?

That is one of the handful of days a year that I get to wear a tuxedo to work. And its a thrill for us to be involved with the Television Academy and be able to walk the red carpet, and really be responsible for Hollywood’s best kept secrets.

At awards shows, we always see the obligatory shot of the accountants with the silver briefcases shackled to their wrists. Is that just a stunt?

The cases are really handcuffed to us. Some of the cases do in fact contain the envelopes to be used at the telecast, but one thing you should also be aware of is they are not the only set of envelopes we produce. We produce multiple sets of envelopes that are transported to the Nokia Theatre in conventional and unconventional ways. And we travel to the venue in separate cars; the envelopes never are together. All part of our security procedures to ensure the confidentiality of the awards. I know I’m a bit coy abut how I’m describing this to you, but that’s by necessity.

I’ll ask you what the stars typically get asked on the red carpet: Who will you be wearing?

I’m going to be wearing my very dated tuxedo. At Ernst & Young its not about the glamour, it’s about the substance.