Despite all the hubbub around the screw-up at the Academy Awards, PwC has to soldier on with its business. Unfortunately, right now that business includes defending itself against a massive lawsuit in a trial that starts on Monday.
It’s hard to imagine a worse Monday than the day after #Envelopegate, but the firm’s face-off with the bankruptcy trustee for MF Global begins next week and that’s not going to be much fun either. Obviously, being the auditor of MF Global when the brokerage went down for the dirt nap has nothing to do with the screwed-up envelope hand-off, but jury experts say the Oscars snafu could still hurt PwC.
“The MF Global meltdown is entirely unrelated to what happened at the Oscars,” said Leticia Ostler, a jury consultant in San Diego. Yet jurors may ask “what’s to say they’re not making the same mistake in other areas?”
Right! And accounting for repurchase-to-maturity transactions are really hard to understand. Right or wrong, your average juror might think, “Geez, these guys suck at lots of stuff.”
But what kind of practical steps can PwC’s lawyers take to give their client the best possible chance? Well, choosing jurors who aren’t paying close attention would be a start:
“Most people know about the screw-up,” said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, an expert on juries who teaches law at the University of Dayton. “I don’t know if they necessarily connect it with PwC. There’s a concern that you actually bring the topic up and then they’re like ‘Oh, I did not know that.’”
Mr Hoffmeister also suggests a generational angle:
His advice: don’t put millennials on the jury.
“They have more faith in Google than they do a witness on the witness stand,” he said.
So ideally, PwC’s lawyers can put together a jury of people who hate movies, don’t watch TV or use Google religiously. Oh! And avoid anyone from the largest living generation in the country. Sounds like a winning strategy.