F-Squared has included strategic beta ETFs in its portfolios, such as the First Trust AlphaDEX ETFs, which select holdings based on growth factors like 3-, 6- and 12-month price appreciation, sales to price and one year sales growth, along with value factors like book value to price, cash flow to price and return on assets. [ETF Managed Portfolios on the Rise]

The SEC also alleges that “the F-Squared analyst who calculated the backtested AlphaSector performance inadvertently applied the buy/sell signals to the week preceding any ETF price change that the signals were based on.  The mistake carried the model portfolio’s backtested buy and sell decisions back in time one week, enabling the model to buy an ETF just before the price rose and sell an ETF just before the price fell.”

“We allege that not only did F-Squared and Present attract clients to this investment strategy by touting a track record they presented as real when it was merely hypothetical, but the hypothetical calculations also were substantially inflated,” said Julie M. Riewe, co-chief of the Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit, in the statement.