For half a century at least, the several states of the United States have taken a liberal attitude toward the recognition and enforcement of foreign country money judgments. The U.S. Supreme Court invoked the “grace” of sovereign nations to justify a restrictive approach to the recognition of judgments in the famous case of Hilton v. Guyot. The New York Court of Appeals laid out a more generous approach based in the vindication of private rights. Simply put, private rights won. In 1962, the Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act, which codified a liberal approach to the cross-border circulation of money judgments. The many U.S. states that adopted the uniform act were trying to lead by example. The hope was that, if they accepted incoming judgments, judgments exported to the rest of the world would be accepted, recognized, and enforced. For decades, this effort was regarded as a failure. The European Union continued to draw a sharp distinction between E.U. judgments and U.S. judgments—though acceptance of U.S. judgments by E.U. member states crept up over time. Some of the world’s largest economies—most notably, China—outright rejected recognition of U.S. money judgments.

Change has been recent and dramatic. In 2017, a Chinese court recognized and enforced a U.S. money judgement for the first time. Chinese law requires reciprocity between nations in order to recognize a foreign money judgment. The United States has no reciprocal judgment recognition treaty with any country. A U.S. district court recognized and enforced a Chinese judgment in 2009. This “reciprocity in fact” was sufficient for a Chinese court. A few months later, China announced that it would sign The Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements (“COCA”), obligating Chinese courts to recognize and enforce judgments rendered under a choice of court clause selecting the courts of any contracting state. The COCA has already entered into force between the European Union, Mexico, and Singapore. The United States has signed, but not ratified, the agreement. Meanwhile, The Hague Judgments Project gathers steam to require the free circulation of judgments arising in all but a few contexts. The drivers of this apparent convergence are obscure and likely diverse. This Article will analyze the causes of this recent, dramatic shift and will attempt to assess the likelihood of further convergence.

This Article explores the divergence in law and convergence in economics in dealing with harms and benefits. While tort law usually makes the injurer internalize wrongful harms through damages, restitution law does not enable the benefactor to internalize the benefits she confers on others without their request. In both harm and benefit cases, however, internalization seems to make economic sense for the same reason: injurers and benefactors alike will behave efficiently if they internalize the externalities that they create. The Article’s main goal is to develop eight liability rules for harm and benefit cases and to point out the symmetry between the rules relating to harms and the rules relating to benefits. It also provides an explanation for the legal divergence between tort law and restitution law and makes the claim that the gap between these two fields should be narrowed. Finally, the Article relates these eight rules to the main relevant categories of harm and benefit cases in positive law and appraises their advantages and disadvantages.

In this Article, we study rules that solve the conflict between the original owner and an innocent buyer of a stolen or embezzled good. These rules balance the protection of the original owner’s property and the buyer’s reliance on contractual exchange, thereby addressing a fundamental legal and economic trade-off. Our analysis is based on a unique, hand-collected dataset on the rules in force in 126 countries. Using this data, we document and explain two conflicting trends. There is a large amount of first-order divergence: both rules that apply to stolen goods and those that apply to embezzled goods vary widely across countries. Yet, there is also remarkable second-order convergence: virtually all legal systems protect the innocent buyer more strongly if the good was embezzled (rather than stolen) and if she purchased it in an open market, at an auction, or from a professional seller (as opposed to a private sale). We show that, while divergence is attributable to varying cultural values, convergence can be rationalized using a classic functional approach: these rules harmonize the owner’s incentives to protect property and the buyer’s incentives to inquire about title.

This Article utilizes a unique data set of property laws in 119 jurisdictions in the world to test convergence/divergence theories in comparative property law. Our theory predicts that first, because legal systems face similar positive transaction costs in delineating property rights, the structure of property law among all jurisdictions in the world will converge or remain similar since some time in the distant past. Second, our theory posits that the style of property law will tend to converge when the doctrines in question are isolated, but diverge when they are interconnected. Our data and descriptive analysis support the theory. Doctrines regarding possession, sales, condominiums, tenancies in common, and limited property rights serve as prominent examples.