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As Expected, SEC Delays VanEck Bitcoin ETF Decision Until February 27

Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:14 PM
Samantha Chang
Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:14 PM

The Securities and Exchange Commission delayed making a decision on VanEck’s bitcoin ETF (exchange-traded fund) application until February 27, 2019. The postponement was largely expected, as 2018 draws to a close amid the ongoing crypto bear market.

“The Commission finds it appropriate to designate a longer period within which to issue an order approving or disapproving the proposed rule change so that it has sufficient time to consider this proposed rule change,” the SEC announced in a December 6 statement. 

Just hours earlier, Gabor Gurbacs — VanEck’s director of digital asset strategy — expressed confidence that SEC approval of the investment firm’s bitcoin ETF application was around the corner.

VanEck Remains ‘Cautiously Optimistic’

“It’s fairly certain to us that America wants a bitcoin ETF,” Gurbacs told Cheddar. “We think that we’ve met all market structure obstacles and requirements on pricing, custody, valuation, and safekeeping, so we are cautiously optimistic.”

The SEC has delayed making a decision on the ETF by VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust several times in 2018.

The SEC has been understandably strict so far. In August 2018, the agency rejected 9 bitcoin ETF applications, citing the applicants’ failure to demonstrate how they could prevent fraud and market manipulation.

In June 2018 and again in March 2017, the SEC rejected the bitcoin ETF applications submitted by the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron. Despite the setbacks, the Winklevoss twins — the founders of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini — remain confident that approval is forthcoming.

BlackRock Waiting Until Crypto Is ‘Legitimate’

Market insiders are divided on whether a bitcoin ETF is a good idea. Among the skeptics is Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock — the world’s largest asset manager and ETF provider.

As CCN.com reported, BlackRock has slowly started to embrace cryptocurrencies, but said it will not launch a bitcoin exchange-traded fund until crypto becomes “legitimate.”

“I wouldn’t say never — when it’s legitimate, yes,” Fink said. “It will ultimately have to be backed by a government. I don’t sense that any government will allow that unless they have a sense of where that money’s going.”

Fink said he’s concerned about the potential for scams, money-laundering, and tax evasion because the crypto industry is decentralized, anonymous, and largely unregulated.

Until that changes, Fink said BlackRock — which has $6.4 trillion in assets under management — will not roll out a cryptocurrency ETF.

Nasdaq Plans to Launch Bitcoin Futures

As VanEck waits for an SEC decision, it’s plowing ahead to roll out bitcoin futures in the first quarter of 2019 through a partnership with Nasdaq — the world’s second-largest stock exchange.

Gabor Gurbacs said the companies will launch a number of bitcoin derivatives in early-2019, including a “regulated crypto 2.0 futures-type contract.”

Nasdaq has been working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to make sure it complies fully with any regulatory issues the country’s main swaps regulator has.

Similarly, Gurbacs said VanEck “ran a few extra miles working with the CFTC to bring about new standards for custody and surveillance.”

The CFTC, which regulates bitcoin as a commodity, has so far approved just two crypto futures products: one from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and another from the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE).