International Organization

Research Article

Courts Without Borders: Domestic Sources of U.S. Extraterritoriality in the Regulatory Sphere

Tonya L. Putnama1

a1 Columbia University, New York. E-mail:


Regulating private transactions across international boundaries has long posed a challenge to states. Extraterritoriality—the direct regulation of persons and conduct outside a state's borders—is an increasingly common mechanism by which strong states attempt to manage problems associated with transnational activities. This article seeks to account for variation across issues in the willingness of U.S. courts to regulate extraterritorially by focusing on the potential for external conduct to undermine domestic legal rules. It suggests further how attention to domestic-level regulatory processes, with particular focus on the role of private actors, can shed new light on transnational rulemaking and enforcement.


I would like to thank Mark Axelrod, Tim Büthe, Mark Copelovitch, Lynn Eden, Tanisha Fazal, Ray Hicks, Robert O. Keohane, Jeffrey Lax, Moonhawk Kim, Helen Kinsella, Stephen D. Krasner, Todd Sechser, Jacob Shapiro, David A. Singer, Michael Tomz, and two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions. I would also like to thank participants in the IR Faculty Colloquium at Princeton University and the Social Science Seminar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University, the Browne Center for International Politics at the University of Pennsylvania, audiences at Columbia University, University of California-Berkeley and UCLA, together with co-panelists at APSA and ISA Annual Meetings. The Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton and the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford generously provided support during research and writing.