Racketeering After Morrison: Extraterritorial Application of Civil RICO

Hoppe, Daniel | March 1, 2013

In Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., the Supreme Court set forth a framework to identify the extraterritorial reach of a federal statute. The Supreme Court required that a statute demonstrate congressional intent to apply to extraterritorial conduct. Under this framework, federal courts have found that civil RICO does not apply to extraterritorial conduct. However, the courts have been inconsistent in their analysis of RICO under Morrison. Some courts have found that RICO does not apply to extraterritorial enterprises while others have found that RICO does not apply to extraterritorial conduct. But the courts have been consistent in saying that Morrison precludes some extraterritorial application of civil RICO. This analysis is inconsistent with the Morrison framework and ignores the text and legislative history of RICO. The text of the RICO statute provides no limitation on the application of the law to extraterritorial conduct. Further, the extraterritorial limitation is inconsistent with the congressional directive to liberally construe the statute to effectuate its remedial purpose—to limit the impact of organized crime. In the text and history of civil RICO, Congress clearly indicated that the statute should apply extraterritorially.