Compliance on the big screen

A private equity manager and his SEC compliance officer are the stars of a new television comedy.

Courtney Vance
Credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

Not content with one private equity-themed show to her name, playwright Sarah Burgess has penned a second alternative assets-based script, and this time it’s for television.

The author of Dry Powder has written a comedy series, currently called Compliance, that will focus on a private equity manager and his government-appointed compliance monitor. The US FX network has just commissioned a half-hour pilot, although is yet to confirm a transmission date.

Mary Louise Parker will play the Securities and Exchange Commission officer, while Courtney Vance will play the fund manager.

It won’t be Parker’s first foray into alternative assets; she had a recurring role in series two of Billions, the show loosely based on the activities of crusading federal prosecutor of financial crimes Preet Bharara and his legal battles with hedge fund manager Steve Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors. She has also starred in political drama The West Wing. Vance’s showreel includes Law and Order, ER, and most recently The People versus OJ Simpson.

Scott Rudin has been named as executive producer of the pilot. He has worked on Silicon Valley, a series that focuses on five young men who founded a start-up, and produced the films The Grand Budapest Hotel, Captain Philips and True Grit.

If Burgess’s previous output is anything to go by, the show is set to be a cracker. She has been described by the stage press as an “up-and-coming playwright with a knack for biting comedy.” Dry Powder, her play about a private equity firm that acquires a luggage company and must then decide whether to invest in the company or chop it up for a quick profit amid a PR storm, attracted critical acclaim in its 2016 off-Broadway run which starred Hank Azaria, Claire Danes and John Krasinski. It is now playing at the Hampstead Theatre in London, where it has also received excellent reviews from the national newspapers. One described it as a “clued-up, razor-sharp comedy,” while another said it was a whip-smart workplace drama. “Think The Office but with very serious money at stake,” it added.

Anticipation for Burgess’s big screen debut is already building in compliance circles. The founder of consulting and commentary site Radical Compliance, Matt Kelly, said: “Why not treat compliance as comedy? Half of what we do borders on the preposterous, one step away from Waiting for Godot. Heck, if you’re waiting for that declination from the Justice Department or the last comment letter from the SEC to close out that issue, Godot might show up first.”

Posting about the show on LinkedIn, Todd Cipperman, managing principal at Cipperman Compliance Services, said: “How awesome is this? A TV show about compliance!”

And Anthony Dell, compliance and RegTech strategy leader at Compliance by Design, said: “This is already the greatest television program in the history of television programs.”

Compliance officers – your days of being viewed as the office stick in the mud could be numbered. You’re about to hit the prime time!