Follow TV Tropes


Corrupt Corporate Executive / Live-Action TV

Go To

Corrupt Corporate Executives in live-action TV.

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings us recurring villain Ian Quinn. On the surface, he's a philanthropist who champions deregulation of government interference with scientific research. However, the truth is that he only wants that so that he can profit from the development of dangerous advanced technology, which he's willing to blackmail and manipulate scientists to get his hands on. And if that's not enough to convince you he's evil, the end of his second episode reveals that he's working for The Clairvoyant.
  • Advertisement:
  • Andromeda has Sid Barry (under the name Sam Profit) run TransGalactic, a large shipping company. He has tons of skeletons in his closet, and Beka is determined to expose him. Later on, he tries to run for public office. When Beka decides to release proof that Sid is a murderer and a smuggler, he laughs and reveals that this information is already public but was twisted into making him look sympathetic.
  • George Bluth from Arrested Development is definitely this trope, he built houses for Saddam in Iraq which may or may not have been used to hide WMD silos. He ends up wanted for the entire spectrum from light to severe treason.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Edgars Industries, which is planning wholescale genocide of telepaths.
    • Interplanetary Expeditions also is willing to engage in more than a little corruption in order to get its job done, something the Alliance plays into in order to get needed supplies past the EarthGov embargo of the station:
      Sheridan: [to a visiting IPX executive] If you're going to be working here, you'll be packing a lunch. We just want to make sure you bring enough for everyone.
  • Advertisement:
  • Parodied mercilessly in A Bit of Fry and Laurie with their "John and Peter" sketches. John and Peter are a pair of ruthless, high-flying businessmen making their way to the top in deep-80s Britain who treat things like managing a car park as if it's the most important thing on the planet. They also drink glass after glass of scotch and loudly shout "DAMN!" at every conceivable opportunity.
  • Das Boot: Samuel Greenwood, Sr. Prior to the war, he happily rearmed Nazi Germany, and is planning to campaign for US President with the money he got from it.
  • The Korean Series Boys Before Flowers has the Evil Matriarch systematically destroying her son's love interest's livelihood, while manipulating the corporate empire she created. This includes telling her own children that their father died when in fact he was in a stroke-induced coma.
  • Advertisement:
  • Burn Notice has a few, although the show tends to focus on other kinds of criminals. The most notable is John Barrett (played by Robert Patrick), the head of a private security firm who finances corrupt governments and terrorists.
  • Another example of a Korean Drama is Can You Hear My Heart?. CEO Choi delibrately witholds oxygen to his ill father-in-law in order to inherit the company. And that's just for starters...
  • Vexcor's Essa Rompkin and Brion Boxer, the Big Bads of Charlie Jade. As heads of an above the law Mega-Corp, bribery and having people killed are child's play for them. The really impressive bits are Boxer's plan to steal the water from a parallel earth to replenish the one his company's polluted, a process which will destroy a third universe as a side-effect, or how, to rejuvenate the decrepit Boxer, Essa calls employees up to her office and forces them on the spot to consent — under the threat that they and their family will almost certainly be condemned to poverty if they refuse — to a fatal medical procedure wherein Boxer essentially drains the life out of them.
  • B.P. Richfield of Dinosaurs, who's willing to do anything to make a profit, including causing an Ice Age that will kill the dinosaurs. His only thought was that heaters, blankets, and cocoa were selling like hotcakes.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A good pre-80s example is Tobias Vaughn from "The Invasion". As noted above, he was very much a corporate Blofeld.
    • Captain Dent from "Colony in Space", who murders colonists to clear the planet for mining operations and thus higher profits for the corporation he represents.
    • The Collector from "The Sun Makers" — defeated when the Doctor taxed him to death.
    • Morgus from "The Caves of Androzani", who murdered the president, conducted industrial sabotage on his own company, arranged for vagrants to toil in his work camps and perpetuated a planetary civil war just to keep his profit margins acceptably high.
    • "Dalek" has Henry van Statten, whose computer company is based on stolen Imported Alien Phlebotinum including an imprisoned Dalek. He also claims to have the cure for the common cold, but won't release it as he can make more money selling "a thousand palliatives".
    • "The Long Game": The Editor, who runs Satellite 5, represents a consortium of banks and is complicit in keeping the human race enslaved to the will of the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe.
    • There's also Vaughn's Alternate Universe successor, John Lumic, creator of new Cybermen. He thinks everyone on his Earth should be converted, whether they want to be or not.
    • "Voyage of the Damned": Max Capricorn was removed from the board of his collapsing cruising company, and decided to take revenge by attempting to have one of the company's ships crash and wipe out all life on a planet so the board would go to jail, while he escaped and retired on a nice beach planet. Fortunately, the Doctor is there to intervene.
    • "Partners in Crime": Miss Foster, the head of Adipose Industries, is a "space super-nanny" who intends to kill over a million people by turning them into Adipose for the benefit of her clients.
    • "Planet of the Ood": Mr. Halpen is the head of Ood Operations, which profits from the enslavement of the titular species.
      "Well, we can write [two thousand Ood] off. That's what insurance is for."
    • Kazran Sardick from "A Christmas Carol" is a man so bitter that he was going to let 4003 people die in a spaceliner crash — not For the Evulz, but because he just didn't care.
    • The unseen executives of Ganymede Systems in "Oxygen": they charge their workers for the oxygen they use, expel unauthorized air from the space station to "protect market value", and program their automated space suits to "delete their organic components" when productivity drops.
    • "Arachnids in the UK": Jack Robertson, a wealthy American businessman who builds luxury hotels on repurposed land. Land that he formerly repurposed into using as an illegal landfill for his shoddily-run waste disposal company.
  • Damon in Enlightened is an example of this trope. Abaddonn is already shaping up to be a pretty nasty company on its own merits, added to which he is up to dodgy financial practices.
  • It is subtly implied that Firefly's Blue Sun Corporation is behind some of the trauma River Tam suffered while at the Academy; for example, in "Shindig" she attacks several food cans with the Blue Sun logo on them, and in "Ariel" she takes a butcher knife to one of Jayne's shirts bearing the corporation's logo — while he's still wearing it (though it is also argued that she did this because she knew that Jayne would try to sell her and Simon out to the Alliance later).
  • Domyoji Kaede, at least in the j-drama continuity of Boys over Flowers is implied to use unethical practices to secure her company's massive, monopoly-esque corporate empire.
  • In Homecoming, Colin, Ron, and the rest of the Geist Corporation are willing to brainwash innocent veterans to make them willing to serve infinite consecutive terms of duty in order to obtain precious data that they can profit off of.
  • Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother can be considered this, after having looked over documents on his desk in an episode his lawyer friend Marshall comments that "I'm fairly certain that if these contracts aren't executed precisely, we will be at war with Portugal." To which Barney simply responds "Forget that, that's a Tuesday for me" and start complaining about his own social issues instead. Though this could be considered a spoof on the trope rather than actually playing it straight. Almost every deal Goliath Bank is involved in seems to involve some at least questionable activity, including possible treason with North Korea.
    • He knows so much about the illegal and probably treasonous activities of the bank that he claims he will never be fired - but might end up in a landfill somewhere. Of course this is Barney Stimpson so we can't be sure.
  • The Indian Detective: David Marlowe, especially when his business dealings with the Chandekar brothers are brought to light.
  • Inspector George Gently: In "Breathe the Air", a Swiss corporation is covering up the fact that they knew that asbestos was giving their workers cancer years before they shut down their factory. Their ruthless cover-up drives a doctor to suicide.
  • JAG: This trope is often used as defense contracters will sell faulty equipment at premium prices resulting in deaths of service members.
    • In "Pilot Error", Macroplex executive James Reid doesn't believe he is wrong about Pendry's responsibility for the crash, but he resorts to some incredibly underhanded tactics to try and prove it, including a character assassination campaign.
    • In "Act of Terror", Percival Bertram is a wealthy businessman (looking like a Corrupt Hick) who supports right-wing conservative politicians and brands himself as a super-patriot advocating that the U.S. should take gloves of with respect to terrorists to U.S. interests in the Middle East. However, the alleged super-patriot finances terrorism in the Middle East against U.S. interests (supposedly to create a self-fulfilling prophecy gaining his own business interests.)
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid has four presidents of Genm Corp. appear through the story's run and only one of them is not this trope. Starting with a memetic god wannabe note  , continuing with Bugster in disguise note  and concluding with manipulative father of the first example note  It's a miracle Tsukuru , the last CEO as of #45 managed to survive under all of them.
  • The Kill Point: Alan Beck, a powerful real estate businessman in the Pittsburgh area, gets involved in the hostage situation at the Three Rivers Bank when he finds out that his rebellious teen daughter Ashley is among the hostages. After his attempt to use his connections to pressure Horst Cali to prioritize her release fail, he tries to make a deal with the hostage takers on his own accord behind the backs of the authorities.
  • Kluen Cheewit: Jeerawat's poor excuse of a lying, lusting stepfather, who uses fear and intimidation to force people to sell their property and lands.
  • Leverage lives and breathes by this trope. Nearly every Asshole Victim in a given episode is either a mega-corporate exec or the country hick version of this, with a preference for going after the former. Word of God has stated that many of their villain/victims are based heavily on real corrupt executives and real crimes that they've committed, with only the tiniest bit of embellishment — and that in some cases, the fictional version has been toned DOWN from their real-life counterpart because the real thing just wouldn't seem believable to TV audiences.
    • Don't forget the CCE who knows about the team's activities and makes money off them. It turns out he's in cahoots with another CCE, who put the team together in the first place.
  • M.A.N.T.I.S. sees the title character deals with some of these, most notably, Solomon Box, a former business partner of his alter ego, Miles Hawkins. Box kicked off the series by bribing someone Hawkins hired to destroy a toxin they'd created to hand the toxin over to Box sell so he could sell it to North Korea. In "To Prey in Darkness", he had the corrupt Police Chief Grant pass one of his agents off as a federal agent to kill M.A.N.T.I.S. and in the "Thou Shall Not Kill"/"Revealation" two-parter, he arranged the death of a city councilman so Grant's task force could be approved and it was revealed that the shooting at paralyzed Hawkins (and ultimately led to him making the exosuit he'd later use to fight crime) was a botched assassination Box had ordered.
  • Despite the show ostensibly being about ninjas, the most common villain on The Master (known to MST3K fans as Master Ninja) would be one of these. It might explain why the show didn't last more than thirteen episodes.
  • Grossberg, the first head of Network 23 on Max Headroom, is so archetypal that every Corrupt Corporate Executive since has, perhaps unintentionally (or indirectly, by way of Gordon Gekko of Wall Street), paid him homage. Specific foibles of the character type that he manifested include an almost bishonen level of grooming, slicked-back hair, and a severe facial tic.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Believe it or not, this trope showed up in something of a Show Within a Show: Mr. Rogers put on an opera involving a town called Bubble Land, and that opera's villain was the CEO of the Bubble Chemical Company named W. I. Norton Donovan. He sold cans of compressed air as "spray-on sweaters" that protect your bubbles, and when confronted with the sheer impossibility of spray-on sweaters, he tried to pass it off as a joke. These cans of compressed air, when used, actually gave him Blow You Away powers and turned him into a living windstorm. Yes, an episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood actually had a corrupt corporate executive who turned himself into a supervillain!
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Virtual Future", David Warner played Bill Trenton, a Research, Inc.'s evil CEO. He hires a research scientist who developed a device that could predict the future, but decides to use the device to win an election by murdering his rival.
  • Anton Mercer of Power Rangers Dino Thunder was at first almost indistinguishable from Ziktor. His twist, though, was that he wasn't actually evil: he was just acting that way to keep anyone from noticing that he was in a Jekyll & Hyde relationship with the series Big Bad.
  • Jim Profit (Profit) was another in the Grossberg line — and he was the central character of the show. Though it must be said that Profit isn't exactly corrupt: granted, he does some very unethical things, but he does them to people who turn out to be far more corrupt and/or actively dangerous than he.
  • In RoboCop: The Series, the Chairman of OCP, the equivalent of Old Man, is considerably more well-meaning and altruistic; still expects a profit margin, but not willing to cause undue suffering to get there. As in the films, however, OCP is crawling with CCEs on every level, providing handy throwaway villains for every episode. The Chairman is constantly surprised that someone with a Harvard education could be so corrupt. That said, even the Chairman has had his moments of this trope as he's willing to rush products and initiatives out in the first place without testing them and the episode "When Justice Fails" reveals he's engaged in insider trading.
  • SCTV satirised this with the characters Guy Cabalero (played by Joe Flaherty) and Mayor Tommy Shanks (played by John Candy). Another John Candy character that qualifies as this is Johnny LaRue.
  • Lionel Luthor on Smallville. Much like his hair follicle-challenged son in the Superman timeline, his agribusiness LuthorCorp has plenty of underworld connections: Lionel killed his parents in a staged 'accident' and used the insurance payout as a startup for his company. (This backstory was borrowed from the post-Crisis Lex Luthor.) His friend and partner in crime was Morgan Edge, who of course later went on to become a major kingpin in Intergang. LuthorCorp functions as a standard soap opera antagonist in the series, meddling in small town politics and running clandestine mutant research in underground labs.
    • Tess Mercer, who replaced the Luthors at the company's helm, is a different variation: a well-intentioned ecoterrorist who used her position to try and order around Clark Kent, her chosen messiah. (Of course, saying that she "replaced" the Luthors isn't really accurate since she is a Luthor.) Once she does a Heel–Face Turn to join Clark's team, she actually uses her habits of this in almost a Token Evil Teammate way to help the JLA out (mostly by using LuthorCorp to fund things just like Oliver does, and using her position as Clark's and Lois's boss to cover for them).
    • Then there's Earth-2 Lionel, who managed to combine this trope with Diabolical Mastermind, fusing LuthorCorp with the Metropolis underworld and essentially becoming The Emperor.
  • The NID from Stargate verse, though they only wanted to get access to alien tech. After they got rooted out, the Trust took over instead.
    • Don't forget Ba'al himself, who somehow manages to become the head of a major corporation on Earth.
    • Del Tynan, a low-level supervisor for Tech Con Group on Hebridan is a conspiracy nut who believes that the Serrakin and the human/Serrakin hybrids are secretly in charge and putting pure humans down as second-class citizens. It turns out that the reason for his complaint is that he was passed over for promotion twice. When the president of the corporation Miles Hagan (who is the aversion to this trope, as far as we know) confronts Tynan, he explains that the reason he was passed over for promotion was due to an internal investigation into Tynan, which revealed corruption. A rare case of a CCE who tries to justify his actions with racist conspiracy theories.
  • Star Trek: Every member of the Planet of Hats Ferengi race, if they were high enough in business to be considered an executive. Their race doesn't distinguish between corrupt and non-corrupt, as long as you make a profit.
  • Richard "Dick" Roman from series seven of Supernatural. It's hard to get much more corrupt than "possessed by the leader of the abominations God dumped in Purgatory for everyone's safety". He also claims the real Roman was a lower-key example (he picked up prostitutes and then kicked them out of hotel suites).
  • Survivor has portrayed a few male contestants over the years as the corrupt corporate type. Most notably, Richard Hatch the original winner of Survivor was portrayed as a corrupt corporate trainer. Other men that have been portrayed as smarmy, villainous corporate types are Marty Piombo (Nicaragua) and David Samson (Cagayan). Lex van den Berghe (Africa, All-Stars) as a marketing manager was sort of an atypical version of this type of villain, where playing with integrity was very important to him, but the edit showed all the times where he was hypocritically deviating from his moral standards but not realizing it. Talent agency owner, Dan Spilo (Island of the Idols) most recently was an extreme example of the Corrupt Corporate Executive. Dan was the first ever castaway expelled from Survivor for sexually harassing women on his season. It should be noted that unlike other corporate execs who were portrayed as semi-corrupt on Survivor in a figurative way, for Dan Spilo he was literally corrupt in a sense that goes beyond the confines of the game. It went beyond his "character". So that distinction should be noted.
  • Subverted in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where ZieraCorp is a company run by a rather creepy woman named Catherine Weaver, who acquires the Turk supercomputer. Weaver turns out to be a T-1001, but is actually on humanity's side in trying to prevent Judgment Day and defeat Skynet.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "Shatterday", Peter Jay Novins took the Cumberland account at his PR firm in full knowledge of the company's intention to strip mine a county.
    • In "Appointment on Route 17", Tom Bennett is a ruthless businessman whose sole ambition in life is to make money at any cost until he receives Jamie Adler's heart in a transplant and becomes a better man.
    • In "Street of Shadows", Frederick Perry is aggressively pursuing a new construction project with no concern regarding the impact that tearing down the existing buildings will have on the people of the area. Although he is worth over $40 million, he wants to cut costs down by firing personnel where possible.
  • Ziktor of VR Troopers was essentially a Grossberg clone, with the added twist that he was also secretly a monstrous being from Another Dimension.
  • When Calls the Heart has Henry Gowen, who knew about the unsafe conditions in the mine but covered his own hide and was responsible for the deaths of 46 men. He then spent the better part of a season sabotaging efforts to bring the mining company to justice.
  • Wonder Woman (2011 pilot): Veronica Cale, who does illegal experiments on trafficked in people and tries to use her connections to politicians to intimidate her rivals. Wonder Woman herself actually averts this trope. Sure, she's a brutal psychopath who tortures people in hospital beds and murders security guards (and abuses personal connections to get away scot-free — she is corrupt, just not in the sense of this trope), but the way she runs her business showcases she's not interested in wealth. In fact, she sabotages herself in terms of money in one scene, ordering a recall of an exploitative doll she gave consent to earlier).
  • 90% of villains of the week in White Collar are this, due to the nature of the show.
  • The Wire:
    • Russell "Stringer" Bell" has very clear aspirations to become a CCE and ascend from his status as just a drug kingpin, and takes economics classes at a community college and starts buying up housing properties to this effect. His own ruthless, double-dealing nature comes back to haunt him, though, and he's killed before any of these plans can come into fruition.
    • There's also Frank Sobotka, who is a corrupt labor union official/harbor foreman. Unfortunately for him, Redemption Equals Death when his "business partners" find out that he was about to talk to the cops.
  • Yellowstone:
    • Dan Jenkins is a billionaire land developer who knows that you have to play dirty to get anything done. Even still, he's unprepared for how rough Montana can be.
    • Chief Thomas Rainwater combines this with Corrupt Bureaucrat as both the manager of an Indian casino and the chief of the Crow Indian Reservation, which has its own government. He's ruthless in his quest to take his tribe's land back from the American government by any dirty trick at his disposal.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: