Top 10 Compliance TV Programmes

Posted by

Ian Hare

on 14 Jun 2023

While compliance may not be the first thing on your mind when switching off for the holidays, it's at the hub of several compelling and award-winning TV programmes.

compliance tv programmes

No doubt about it, compliance topics provide some entertaining viewing. Whether it's money laundering or whistleblowing, these form the foundation of an interesting plot line. And there's no better time to binge-watch box sets than while sitting by the pool, waiting at the airport or travelling on a long journey. 

Learn about compliance from TV programmes

In no particular order, here are our top 10 small screen smashes where compliance plays a part. If we've missed your favourite (and we did have to cut out some gems), let us know. 

  1. Breaking Bad (2008 - 2013)
  2. Gomorrah (2014 - 2021)
  3. Ozark (2017 - 2022)
  4. Mr Robot (2015 - 2019)
  5. The Handmaid's Tale (2017 - present)
  6. The Wire (2002 - 2008)
  7. Narcos (2015 - 2017)
  8. The Good Wife (2009 - 2016)
  9. McMafia (2018)
  10. The Whistleblowers (2007)

We've also compiled a list of our favourite compliance movies, which all feature a valuable lesson in compliance.

For those preferring the written form, we've also put together a list of the best governance, risk and compliance books and compliance true stories.

Our pick of the top 10 compliance TV programmes

1. Breaking Bad (2008 - 2013)

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

This critically acclaimed American series follows the transformation of Walter White, a mild-mannered, law-abiding high school chemistry teacher, into a ruthless methamphetamine manufacturer and morally compromised criminal.

Money laundering plays a significant role as Walter and his business partner, Jesse Pinkman, grapple with how to 'clean' the large amounts of money earned from their illicit activities. As they become more deeply involved and their profits grow, Walter devises a scheme to launder the drug money through a car wash that he and his wife, Skyler, buy as a legitimate front.

Compliance lessons

  • Prioritise ethical behaviour. Emphasise the importance of making choices aligned with legal and moral principles and the potential consequences of non-compliance.  
  • Be transparent and accountable. Foster a culture of openness and take responsibility for actions.
  • Recognise warning signs. Be vigilant in identifying red flags and take fast, appropriate action.

AML Risk Assessment Tips

2. Gomorrah (2014 - 2021)

Starring: Salvatore Esposito, Marco D’Amore, Ivana Lotito

Based on Roberto Saviano's book, this gripping Italian 'programme TV' digs into the dark and violent world of organised crime in Naples and the underbelly of one of Italy's most powerful crime syndicates – the Camorra.

The show depicts the pervasive corruption and bribery that infiltrates all levels of society in Naples – from government officials to law enforcement agencies and businesses – and their role in gaining and maintaining control, expanding criminal enterprises, and protecting illegal activities.

Compliance lessons

  • Anti-corruption measures. Highlight the importance of implementing strong anti-corruption policies and procedures.
  • Regulatory compliance. Emphasise the importance of adhering to laws and regulations to minimise risks and safeguard against potential legal consequences.
  • Collaboration with law enforcement. Demonstrate the importance of cooperation with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.

Free Anti-Bribery Training Tips

3. Ozark (2017 - 2022)

Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz

This crime drama revolves around financial planner Marty Byrde, who is forced to relocate his family to America's Ozark mountains after a money-laundering scheme goes wrong. Marty must navigate a dangerous criminal underworld while laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel.

As he becomes more deeply involved, the stakes rise, and Marty must employ increasingly sophisticated methods to protect his operation and avoid detection.

Compliance lessons

  • Money laundering risks. Highlight the legal and reputational risks of engaging in money laundering activities.
  • Due diligence. Stress the need for thorough due diligence before entering business partnerships or carrying out transactions.
  • Internal controls and risk management. Illustrate the importance of implementing robust internal controls, risk assessment, and monitoring processes to detect and prevent financial crimes.

AML Compliance & Training Roadmap

4. Mr Robot (2015 - 2019)

Starring: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin

This highly praised US TV programme centres on Elliot Alderson, a brilliant but mentally unstable computer programmer who becomes a cyber-vigilante. Elliot aims to erase all debt by taking down powerful, corrupt corporations and challenging the flawed systems that govern our world.

Mr Robot emphasises the significance of data protection and cybersecurity, exposing the vulnerabilities of interconnected systems and raising awareness about the need to safeguard personal information.

Through its portrayal of hacking and cyber attacks, Mr Robot sheds light on the potential risks and consequences of a world inadequately prepared to protect our digital infrastructure.

Compliance lessons

  • Data protection and cybersecurity. Highlight the critical importance of safeguarding data and implementing robust cybersecurity measures to protect against unauthorised access, breaches, and potential harm.
  • Privacy regulations. Emphasise compliance with privacy laws and regulations to ensure proper handling and protection of personal information.
  • Vulnerability testing.Take proactive measures to identify and address security weaknesses in your systems and networks.
    Free Cyber Security Training Presentation

5. The Handmaid's Tale (2017-present)

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd

The Handmaid's Tale is a thought-provoking series based on Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel. Set in a totalitarian society called Gilead, the series follows the story of Offred, a Handmaid in Gilead, who is assigned to a high-ranking family to bear children for them due to a widespread fertility crisis.

The Handmaids are victims of a form of modern slavery, where their bodies and reproductive capacities are commodified and controlled by the state and ruling elite. Their agency, freedom, and personal autonomy are stripped away, leaving them trapped in a system that dehumanises and exploits them.

Compliance lessons

  • Recognise abuses. Look out for signs of modern slavery and develop indicators of labour trafficking or exploitation.
  • Ethical supply chain management. Always conduct due diligence on all clients, suppliers and third parties to ensure you 'know the chain'.
  • Report any suspicions. Use the correct channels to report suspicious activity immediately, but don't directly confront anyone suspected of involvement. People's lives may depend on it. 

Top Modern Slavery Questions Answered

6. The Wire (2002-2008)

Starring: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn

Widely regarded as one of the greatest TV series of all time, The Wire offers a realistic and gritty portrayal of Baltimore's intricate web of institutions, crime, and social structures.

With money laundering, bribery, and corruption prominent throughout, The Wire highlights how criminal organisations generate, conceal, and use illegal funds and their impact on legitimate businesses. It also explores the blurred lines between law enforcement, politicians, and criminals – and the ultimate consequences for people, communities and society.

Compliance lessons

  • Fraud detection and prevention. Implement robust systems and controls to detect and prevent fraud.
  • Whistleblower protection. Put procedures in place that protect whistleblowers who come forward with information about illegal or unethical activity.
  • Internal and external audits. Use regular audits to uncover fraudulent practices and ensure compliance with established procedures and regulations.

Free Fraud Prevention Good Practice Guide

7. Narcos (2015-2017)

Starring: Pedro Pascal, Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook

Offering a twist on the crime dramas we recommend above, Narcos is based on the true rise and fall of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Medellín and Carli cartels in Colombia.

Narcos portrays a society where corruption penetrates all levels of power, making it challenging for authorities to combat the drug trade. The show exposes the intricate web of relationships and alliances formed through bribery and corruption, enabling Escobar and the cartels to operate largely unchecked.

It also highlights the destructive impact on society as communities suffer from violence, social decay, and the erosion of trust in public institutions. 

Compliance lessons

  • Anti-money laundering measures. Embed robust AML measures to prevent laundering illegal funds that could otherwise fund criminals and criminal activity.
  • Regulatory compliance. Ensure you keep up-to-date with changing regulations to mitigate legal and reputational risks.
  • Documented policies and procedures. Develop clear and comprehensive policies and procedures that provide a framework for consistent and accountable compliance behaviour.

UK AML & CTF E-learning

8. The Good Wife (2009-2016)

Starring: Julianna Marguiles, Chris Noth, Josh Charles

As a legal drama combining politics and personal relationships in the digital age, The Good Wife is a captivating TV programme that follows Alicia Florrick's return to her legal career after her politician husband's public scandal.

Including cases involving data breaches, hacking, and cybercrime, the show highlights the vulnerability of personal information, the ethical dilemmas surrounding privacy invasion and data manipulation, and its ultimate consequences.

With its interplay between technology, data protection, and cybersecurity, The Good Wife highlights the ever-present challenges individuals and institutions face in a digitally connected world. 

Compliance lessons

  • Conflict of interest management. Emphasise the importance of identifying and addressing conflicts promptly to maintain integrity and avoid compromising client interests.
  • Digital compliance. Regularly update and adapt your compliance practices to address emerging technological risks and protect sensitive information.
  • Corporate governance and compliance. Take a top-down approach and highlight the responsibilities of board members and senior staff in ensuring compliance with laws, regulations, and ethical standards.

Data Protection Principles Checklist

9. McMafia (2018)

Starring: Yoalah Brinson, James Norton, Merab Ninidze

This gripping one-off British crime drama explores the intricate world of organised crime and global money laundering. Inspired by the book of the same name, it tells the story of Alex Godman, who's determined to escape his family's criminal past and build a legitimate business empire in London.

McMafia highlights how even legitimate businesses, banks, and professionals can unknowingly – or knowingly – get involved in money laundering activities.

It also showcases how compliance regulations and anti-money laundering measures are essential tools in the fight to detect and disrupt illicit financial flows while navigating the complexities of international jurisdictions.

Compliance lessons

  • Know your customer. Conduct thorough due diligence on customers, business partners, and financial transactions to mitigate the risk of involvement in criminal activities.
  • Compliance training and awareness. Provide regular comprehensive compliance training for your employees and stakeholders on the laws, regulations, and ethical standards relating to their roles and responsibilities.
  • Third-party risk management. Carry out robust third-party risk management programmes to assess external partners' integrity, compliance and reputation.

Improve Risk Management at Work

10. The Whistleblowers (2007)

Starring: Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel

The Whistleblowers is a compelling 2007 UK TV programme that delves into the inner workings of a team at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) as they tackle complex cases and expose corporate corruption and financial misconduct.

While unveiling instances where companies flout compliance rules, engage in fraudulent activities, and manipulate financial information for personal gain, it also explores the risks, retaliation and dilemmas faced by people who dare to speak out.

Compliance lessons

  • Reporting mechanisms. Create clear policies and procedures that guide employees on how to report misconduct, ensuring they are aware of their rights and the channels available.
  • Unbiased investigations. Carry out fair investigations, ensure the proper protocols are followed, and update whistleblowers throughout the process.
  • Follow-up actions. Address the underlying issues, implement necessary changes, and take appropriate disciplinary measures to prevent future misconduct.

Whistleblowing Training Presentation

Looking for more compliance insights?

We have created a series of comprehensive roadmaps to help you navigate the compliance landscape, supported by e-learning in our Essentials Library.

We also have 100+ free compliance training aids, including assessments, best practice guides, checklists, desk aids, eBooks, games, posters, training presentations and even e-learning modules!

Finally, the SkillcastConnect community provides a unique opportunity to network with other compliance professionals in a vendor-free environment, priority access to our free online learning portal and other exclusive benefits.

Compliance Audit Checklist

Compliance audits systematically examine organisations' activities to determine whether they meet all applicable legal requirements and corporate policies.

Here, we explain the key steps to completing a compliance audit to identify any gaps in compliance and suggest corrective actions.

Download your free audit checklist