There are few scapegoats more overloaded with blame for all that ails the U.S. economy (at least when we’re not on the brink of defaulting on our loans) than securities class action lawyers and the Securities and Exchange Commission. You know the rap. Class action lawyers are accused of accomplishing nothing more than transferring money out the pockets of corporate shareholders and into their own wallets; the SEC, meanwhile, is derided for failing to detect flagrant fraudsters like Bernard Madoff and letting the true perpetrators of the mortgage crisis off the hook. (Reuters, incidentally, has a great story today about the SEC’s new hotline for fraud tips, so the next Bernie Madoff won’t get away with deceiving investors.) There’s precious little hard data to measure the deterrent effect of SEC enforcement or securities class actions — how can you count averted frauds? — so it’s all too easy to assume securities litigation and SEC enforcement don’t stop corporations from misbehaving.