Bitcoin-Backed ETF Proposals Facing Regulatory Hurdles

SEC’s concerns about the liquidity and valuation are forcing managers to withdraw their proposals.

After the successful launch of Bitcoin futures in the US market, many firms started to push for the approval of Bitcoin ETFs. But now it seems that these exchange-traded-funds will not see the light of day anytime soon because of regulatory pushback.

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This week, five ETF fund managers have withdrawn their proposals to launch Bitcoin ETFs at the request of officials from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

ProShares Trust was the latest firm to shelve its plans after Direxion Shares ETF Trust and Exchange Listed Funds Trust. None of the firms gave an exact reason for the withdrawal.

Direxion’s secretary Angela Brickl noted: “On a call with the Staff on January 5, 2018, the Staff expressed concerns regarding the liquidity and valuation of the underlying instruments in which the Fund intends to primarily invest and requested that the Trust withdraw the Amendment until such time as these concerns are resolved. In response to the Staff’s request, the Trust respectfully requests withdrawal of the Amendment.”

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ProShares withdrawal request letter voiced a similar tone as Richard Morris, general counsel and secretary of ProShares, wrote: “This request for withdrawal is being made in response to a request from the Staff.”

It is to be noted that none of these firms were proposing to hold the digital coin directly, rather they were relying on the price volatility of the recently launched Bitcoin futures.

Since 2013, more than 15 firms filled for SEC’s approval proposing Bitcoin-based ETF. In March ‘17, the SEC rejected the request of the Winklevoss brothers to list an ETF. But unlike the fresh requests, Winklevoss brothers’ proposed fund was seeking direct investment in Bitcoin.

As two exchanges, CBOE Global Markets and CME Group, received permission to launch Bitcoin futures last month, the path to launching Bitcoin-backed ETFs seemed to have cleared. But due to the recent regulatory red-tape, it seems that these investment instruments will not be ticking on the exchanges anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the SEC also temporarily suspended the trading of UBI Blockchain Internet, a Hong Kong-based blockchain firm, on Monday, citing potentially inaccurate information in its regulatory filings and also the unexpected activity of the firm’s stocks.

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