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Corporate Conspiracy

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Some corporations in fiction are Obviously Evil. Others might seem benevolent but are actually engaged in unethical business practices. However, some corporations go the extra mile. Not content with mere corruption, they engage in a wide-spreading, secret Evil Plan to achieve their goals — usually, but not always, profit. This is the Corporate Conspiracy.

What exactly this plot entails varies. The conspiracy may be selling armaments to incite War for Fun and Profit, they may be manipulating property value to gentrify the neighborhood and Kill the Poor, they may be deliberately spreading diseases while selling the cure/solution to the masses, or be Playing with Syringes to make Super Soldiers and Take Over the World... what counts is that they're evil (again, with a few exceptions), and they're secret.

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A subtrope of The Conspiracy and Capitalism Is Bad. May be connected to a Government Conspiracy if the writer wants to invoke the "Military-Industrial Complex". For the blue-collar version, see Milkman Conspiracy. See also Corrupt Corporate Executive, Evil, Inc..


Examples of works/series featuring conspiracies of more than one type:

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    Anime And Manga 

    Comic Books 
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    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Alterien: There are at least three of these. There's NGT (New Genesis Technologies), owned by protagonist Oberon Navarro; Spencer Industries, owned by his rival Theseus Spencer; and finally, Sol 3 United, created by Oberon and his girlfriend Helena Velazquez. All three center around the Alterians, a Human Subspecies that Oberon is a member of — Oberon wants to ensure his species' survival by having them replace homo sapiens as the dominant species on Earth.
  • Artemis Fowl: In the book The Arctic Incident, Koboi Labs has contracts to maintain and upgrade weaponry for the Lower Elements Police, but is also secretly arming the Bwa Kell Triad, a goblin-run mafia, with illegal softnose laser weapons that were supposed to be destroyed. Their CEO, Opal Koboi, and her business partner, Dirty Cop Briar Cudgeon, plan to sabotage the LEP's weaponry and incite the goblins into a riot, then manipulate the conflict so that the LEP wins, Opal's rival Foaly is framed for the coup, and they get to make themselves look like heroes.
  • The Circle (2013): The titular tech company, a combination of Facebook and Google, are plotting "full transparency", an attempt to get so many people to "go transparent" (be filmed and observed at all times) that everybody will need to participate.
  • The Dark Tower: Several corporations are involved in unsavory practices, ranging from attempting to use "breakers" to destroy the beams holding up the dark tower to trying to combine technology with magic. Companies mentioned include Trans Corporation, North Central Positronics, and the Sombra Corporation. Tet Corporation is the good counterpart to these corporations, tasked with thwarting the efforts of those corporations, protecting the rose, and protecting Stephen King.
  • The Expanse:
    • A lot of people die in Leviathan Wakes thanks to Protogen's plan to test out the Protomolecule by unleashing it on the entire population of Eros. Just their distraction plan of starting a war between Earth, Mars and the Belt kills thousands, and then there's the population of Eros.
    • It continues in Caliban's War with Mao-Kwikowski (of which Protogen was a subsidiary). In this case they try to weaponize the Protomolecule by creating Super Soldiers, reigniting hostilities between Earth and Mars.
  • Honor Harrington: Manpower, Incorporated, who are The Man Behind the Man for the Mesan Alignment, who themselves instigated the war between the Republic of Haven and the Star Kingdom of Manticore.
  • The Illuminae Files:
    • The series kicks off with Beitech's hostile takeover of WUC's illegal hermium mine on Kerenza IV, including wholesale slaughter of the Kerenza population. It gets worse — during the attack they also released an experimental pathogen that causes even more mass death after the evacuation.
    • In Gemina, they're at it again, taking over the Heimdall jump station to prevent the Kerenza survivors from making it back to civilisation to testify against Beitech. Murdering the station commander is only the beginning.
  • Maximum Ride: The Mega-Corp Itex is secretly running a laboratory of Mad Scientists that specializes in animal-human gene-splicing experiments.
  • Rainbow Six: Horizon Corporation is another example of a Corporate Conspiracy motivated by ideology, as it is secretly an Eco-Terrorist group that plans to mitigate the inevitable fall of human civilization by quickening it through a genetically-engineered strain of the Ebola virus to wipe out 99% of humanity.
  • Ready Player One: On the surface, IOI is just like any other competitor for Halliday's Egg, and ownership of the OASIS, albeit with manpower and resources that give them a huge edge in the game. This was apparently not enough for them, though, as they also engaged in stealing user data, attacking Wade Watt's real world home in an attempt to kill him, actually killing another teenaged player by having mercenaries throw him off the balcony of his apartment, buying up people's debts in order to put them in indentured servitude, and grand scale cheating by closing down any area of the OASIS that might contain a clue to Halliday's game. This all ultimately comes to light when the game ends with Wade in control, and its hinted that the company's lawyers will be scrambling to prevent IOI from losing all access to the OASIS and thus the internet.
  • A Scanner Darkly: New Path, the company that runs the only existing rehab centers for Substance D addicts, is actually the one growing the plants the drug is distilled from, and is Manufacturing Victims to give them a convenient source of patients and slave labor.
  • Those That Wake: Intellitech, a company that literally manufactured hopelessness until it grew a mind of its own, becoming Man in Suit.
  • The Trials of Apollo: Triumvirate Holdings, a corporation composed of three Roman emporers — Nero, Commodus and Caligula — that have served as The Man Behind the Man for the previous antagonists and are determined to become part of the Olympian pantheon.

    Live-Action Television 
  • 24:
    • BXJ Technologies is home to a highly secretive corporate cabal controlling Charles Logan who, on Day 5, sponsored the Sentox nerve gas conspiracy with the intent to acquire more oil for America from Central Asia and, during Day 6, was involved in a cover-up to hide the damage done by a sub-contractor, the terrorist collaborator Darren McCarthy.
    • Starkwood from Day 7 is a private military company owned by Jonas Hodges, who gave weapons to African Terrorists in exchange for a biological weapon. The bioweapon to be used to force the United States to give responsibility of the national security of the country to Starkwood and other private military companies, thus (in Hodges' eyes) "saving" America.
    • Alan Wilson is, like Hodges, a private military executive who, on Day 7, used bioweapons in terrorist plots against America — unlike Hodges, however, Wilson is a sociopath involved in the aforementioned Sentox conspiracy who manipulates world politics for profit.
  • Babylon 5: Edgars Industries, "the biggest biochemical conglomerate on Mars", is involved in a scheme to commit genocide on telepaths.
  • The TV series Deep State centers around a conspiracy of multiple massive corporations to consulate their power and make enormous profit (the titular deep state). Their efforts include arming terrorists, attempting to create wars (to recreate the massive profits they made out of the Afghanistan War) and taking control of other countries mineral resources.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Extant: Both ISEA (a private futuristic version of NASA) and its parent company Yasumoto Corporation are engaged in one of these.
  • Helix: Illaria Corporation, the parent company of Artic Biosystems, is actually run by an Ancient Conspiracy of immortals dedicated to controlling the human race, either by neutering them or by exterminating them.
  • Homecoming: Geist, the company who run Homecoming in private association with the government. Theoretically a recovery place for soldiers, their attempts to use memory wiping drugs appears to be a Benevolent Conspiracy, until Heidi learns that they're really trying to redeploy these soldiers more "efficiently" by removing them of the need to have psychiatric care. In the mid-2020s, their drugs have even gone mainstream.
  • Spoofed in the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Sweet Dee Has A Heart Attack". Mac and Charlie get a job at a Mega-Corp so they can get health insurance. After several days of working in the mailroom, a stressed-out Charlie believes he's stumbled onto a company conspiracy involving fake employees, a Man In Black-esque figure named Barney, and someone named Pepe Silvia. Turns out Charlie has completely lost his mind (and Barney is a hallucination).
  • Leverage
    • "The Inside Job": Dr. Anne Hannity, vice-president of the Wakefield Agricultural Corporation's R&D division, cost her company 60 million dollars losses studying a rare blight called UG99 with the potential to destroy all known strains of wheat — except for a GMO variant she created. She plans to release the blight, causing a global famine while Wakefield profits from its monopoly on UG99-resistant wheat.
    • "The Double Blind Job": Darren Hoffman is CEO of Pallagen Laboratories, which has just recently bought out the drug company J.R.P. Pharmaceuticals. J.R.P. had previously tested a drug called HT1 that caused lethal liver damage in whoever took it — Hoffman erased all records of HT1 and tried to launch it under the name Vioplex, knowing that in the time it takes for thousands of patients to die, the company will make billions of dollars selling the drug, minus a 15% fine from the FDA.
  • Played with in Lodge 49, where Conspiracy Theorist Champ keeps insisting that Long Beach's financial woes are all the fault of a mysterious organization called Parabola, which is ingrained within local company Orbis. Champ turns out to be partially right; there was in fact a Parabola group within Orbis back in the sixties, and they did play a role in Long Beach's financial woes, but Parabola is long dead, and their role in Long Beach's problems was accidental — they were conducting an experiment in theoretical currency called the Orbit and the Orbits ended up in the hands of employees, who began converting much of their savings into Orbits. When the Orbit turned out to be unsustainable, lots of families in Long Beach lost all their savings, leaving Long Beach as a Dying Town.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ian Quinn, owner of Quinn Worldwide, is a visionary philanthropist who spearheads a movement that champions deregulation of government interference with scientific research so that he can get his hands on advanced tech and is allied with the Centipede Group.
    • The Hand, which features prominently in the Daredevil (2015), Iron Fist and The Defenders (2017) series, are an Ancient Conspiracy that has wormed its way into dozens of companies like Rand Enterprises and Roxxon Corporation, just to name a few, allowing them access to large amounts of cash and the ability to move their resources and operatives wherever they need to go.
  • Mutant X: The titular Mutants were created through covert genetic engineering experiments that the company Genomex did on hundereds of unsuspecting people for the government — when a group of Mutants escape, Genomex sends out some Private Military Contractors called the Genetic Security Agency to recapture them.
  • In the NBC series Odyssey, a soldier uncovers that a Military-Industrial Complex Mega-Corp has been funding jihadists and goes on the run from Private Military Contractors across the desert, while back stateside, a corporate lawyer and a political activist stumble upon more threads of the conspiracy.
  • One of the main antagonists in Orphan Black is the Dyad Institute, a Research, Inc. focused on researching advancements in biotechnology and promoting the use of genetic and physical alterations on human beings. It's gradually revealed that the Dyad conducted many extremely unethical experiments, the most important being a human cloning conspiracy that created the protagonists, as part of a complex eugenicist plot to alter the path of human evolution as they see fit.
  • Person of Interest: Decima Technologies is a private technology firm that is stealing data to program an AI to create a new world order via constant surveillance.
  • Riverdale: Hiram Lodge, after getting out of jail for White-Collar Crime, orchestrates one of these to rebuild his reputation in Riverdale and ensure his family's wealth for years to come. His SoDale project consists of greatly devaluing the already impoverished Southside to acquire the land cheap, so that he can build a Private Profit Prison within Riverdale. And that's only the tip of the iceberg for his ambitions...
  • Succession takes the unusual step of having the people perpetuating the conspiracy (the board of Waystar Royco) as the main characters. They've sent their cruise ships out under a non-American flag to save money and avoid legal trouble, which has fostered a culture of institutionalized rape and sexual harassment going on, and their attempts to thwart investigations into it are a huge part of the conflict.
  • Utopia: Corvadt and Pergus Holdings, massive multinationals spanning dozens of different industries and part of the Network, are working on a Sterility Plague that is formed of two parts, genetically modified corn starch and a flu vaccine, that only activate when combined in a human.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This was ComStar's role in the early years of Battletech. Supposedly just the company that ran the Subspace Ansible, they were also a religious order who believed that there would be a coming catatrophy that would reduce the Inner Sphere to ruin, and that they would be the ones to pick up the pieces. Because of that, they played the different Successor States against each other (easy to do when you've got a monopoly on interplanetary communications). They were eventually found out after the Clan invasion (notably because Comstar's leader at the time tried to double-cross the Inner Sphere and the Clans at the same time and after some internal cleaning promised they wouldn't do things like that anymore. Nobody really believes them. On a smaller scale, Mega Corps like Defiance Industries, Starcorp, and Irain Battlemechs regularly perform acts of espionage and sabotage against each other, trying to learn or steal new research in order to get a leg up on the competition.
  • Call of Cthulhu: New World Incorporated (NWI) from the supplemental The Fungi From Yuggoth is a Mega-Corp secretly controlled by the Old Ones, and plots to bring about the Day of the Beast and devastate the Earth for their masters.
  • CthulhuTech: The Chrysalis Corporation, which deals in everything from household supplies to military hardware, is actually controlled by Nyarlatothep disguised as a mortal man, and secretly strives to Take Over the World.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: Pike Industries can fit this bill, especially considering Graham Pike is an Expy for The Kingpin and Lex Luthor. If there's any dirty deal going on in Rook City, chances are fantastic they're involved. Especially notable is the backstory of the hero Benchmark, who was created by them to be The Mole in the superhero community, winning public trust, and eventually turn Sixth Ranger Traitor by killing them all, thus allowing Pike to control both sides of the struggle between good and evil. Fortunately the coming of Oblivaeon forced them to debut Benchmark before they could install all the needed software, but card art does indicate the plan can still move forward.
    • A less seen example is Revo Corp, which was created by Baron Blade both for scientific research and financial support for his evil schemes. It has since struck out on its own, but the Baron made its new CEO An Offer You Can't Refuse and thus still receives a hefty amount of support from the company.
  • Shadowrun: It's probably easier to say which companies aren't involved in some vast conspiracy (i.e. none). The worst are Aztechnology (who use Blood Magic, and tend to be Card-Carrying Villain sorts to deniable assets like 'runners) and Saeder-Krupp (literally owned by a scheming dragon, who's rumored to eat employees and shadowrunners who fail him). Even unethical shadowrunners avoid them, simply because of their tendency to invoke You Have Outlived Your Usefulness when it comes to being paid. It's practically a Running Gag that they have to pretend to be another corporation just to hire deniable assets.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: The Pentex Coporation, and all of its subsidiaries, are agents of the Wyrm, and thus are dedicated to spreading its corruption through their products and hastening the end of the world.
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    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Bionic Heart: The Mega-Corp Nanotech, under the orders of their CEO Richard, uses nanotechnology to illegally manufacture androids, placing the brains of people in the android bodies to do Richard's bidding.
  • Ever17: The accident in the LeMU park is caused by Leiblich Pharmeceuticals attempting to cover up the fact that a very deadly virus they manufactured, Tief Blau, had been released within the park. In the epilogue You has given the go ahead sign for a long planned whistle blower operation, resulting in massive public scrutiny on Leiblich, which is forced to close down.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Cradle Pharmaceuticals CEO Ace/Hongou recreated the Nonary Game to research morphogenetic fields and telepathy, this time using children as the participants.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Big Hero 6: The Series has Sycorax, a company meant to be helping people who were becoming mutants. In reality, Sycorax was the one creating the mutants, in order to find a cure for Liv Amara, Sycorax's founder.
  • Futurama: Mom Inc., headed by Evil Matriarch Mom, already controls 50% of the Earth. She's just trying to get that percentage up to 100.
  • G.I. Joe:
    • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Extensive Enterprises, run by Tomax and Xamot, were Cobra's business arm, and presumably how they acquired money when they weren't able to extort, kidnap, steal, blackmail, or run telethons.
    • G.I. Joe: Renegades: Cobra is re-imagined as this, hiding their plans for world domination under a facade of benevolence and philanthropy while they create technology and medicine to better the world. Only the titular Joe Team has seen through this and know the dangers Cobra represents.

    Real Life 
  • Military-industrial complex describes the informal alliance between the military and the defense industry pushing them to influence public policies, for example pushing for war in order to make their factories more profitable.
  • Nugan Hand, an Australian bank catering to US service-members, offered a 16 percent interest rate on deposits. Their secret? Funding heroin runs across Asia.
  • The Business Plot, an conspiracy allegedly formulated by a group of quasi-fascist businessmen in 1934 to attempt a coup against Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose presidency would have harmed their business interests. The conspiracy was reported by Smedley Butler, a retired U.S. Marines Major General turned anti-war activist. Historians are divided on whether the allegations were true — in any case, no one was prosecuted.
  • The BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International), which inspired The International above; when it was shut down in 1991 by an international law enforcement effort, other banks began to become involved in the same sort of business, most notably HSBC which was "Too Big to Prosecute."
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