Business 24 January 2019Paul How
Wait prolonged for first crypto ETF; shutdown blamed
It looks like we’ll have to wait a while longer for the first licensed cryptocurrency exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the U.S., as the Cboe BZX Exchange has withdrawn its application to list the VanEck SolidX BTC fund.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, after several delays and a gathering of feedback on the matter, had already set February 27 as the deadline for it to act on the ETF proposal. But in a release, it said that Cboe had pulled its request.
VanEck founder and CEO Jan Van Eck explained to CNBC that it had decided not to push through with the application on account of the so-called government shutdown that has been going on in the U.S. for a little over a month now, while legislators argue over a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Van Eck said the company was trying to hold meetings wherein it could argue the merits of the desired ETF, but that this could not be done when federal government operations are limited.
“[W]e were engaged in discussions with the SEC about the Bitcoin-related issues—custody, market manipulation, prices—and that had to stop, and so, instead of trying to slip through or something, we just had the application pulled,” he said.
The commission had previously rejected several ETF applications, including of Winklevoss-owned Gemini, citing concerns regarding the ability to monitor markets in which the underlying asset is traded.
“We think we actually have pretty solid answers to [the SEC’s concerns],” Van Eck said, “but we just need to really demonstrate it very, very clearly and convincingly to the regulators, and we were trying to do that, but we obviously can’t have meetings while they’re shut down.”
Van Eck expressed hopes of eventually refiling the application and resuming talks with the regulators.
The latest applicant for a cryptocurrency ETF is Bitwise Asset Management, whose Bitwise Bitcoin ETF Trust, if approved, would be listed on the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) Arca. Spot prices for this would be based on physically settled futures contracts. The company has distinguished its application from other funds citing the involvement of a third-party custodian holding the BTC in trust.
Meanwhile, ETFs in other parts of the world are receiving favorable attention from regulators. UK-based exchange Coinfloor has announced a February launch for its Coin Futures and Lending Exchange (CoinFLEX) offering, to be traded in Hong Kong.
Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) is said to be open to ETFs whose prices are based on cryptocurrency futures, where a decision will be made based on a gauging of investor demand.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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