News & Blog


Supreme Court affirms extraterritorial application of Civil RICO lawsuits

The Supreme Court ruled in RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Community that the Civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) may apply to conduct that occurs outside of the United States in limited circumstances. Precisely when it applied had been a topic of disagreement among the various Circuit Court of Appeals. Overcoming the “presumption against extraterritoriality,” the majority decided that conduct occurring outside the United States may trigger Civil RICO liability, so long as the injury from the predicate acts occurs within the United States. As all of the European Community’s damages occurred outside of the United States, the court determined that its lawsuit could not go forward.

While RJR was the prevailing party, perhaps the biggest winner in the case was the federal government. The government joined RJR in arguing that Civil RICO treble-damages should only be available to plaintiffs who can show injuries within the United States. The court’s result makes it less likely that government RICO investigations and prosecutions will be complicated by parallel Civil RICO lawsuits.

McKay Chadwell excels in defending against corporate criminal investigations and parallel civil litigation, having prosecuted and defended such cases for decades. Call and speak to an experienced attorney who can defend corporate interests and minimize corporate liability.