Kathleen Moriarty, who was instrumental in directing the setup of exchange traded funds (EFTs) from a legal perspective in the early 1990s, is supporting a bitcoin ETF, which she is optimistic about, according to The Wall Street Journal.
An ETF is a marketable security that tracks an index, a commodity, bonds, or a basket of assets like an index fund. Unlike mutual funds, an ETF trades like a stock on a stock exchange.
Moriarty’s understanding of the complex rules governing financial products and markets has earned her the nickname “Spider Woman.” She helped launch the largest U.S.-listed ETF, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF. Her most recent challenge is to convince regulators on the appropriateness of a bitcoin ETF.
Convincing regulators to approve ETFs today is a challenge, given the EFT explosion and their role in last August’s market meltdown.
Moriarty, a partner at Kaye Scholer LLP in New York City, noted she tends to focus on more exotic products.
Moriarty pointed to bitcoin’s volatility as a risk in a filing that she co-wrote. The proposed ETF is similar in structure to that of the $32 billion ETF gold product, the SPDR Gold Trust, which she helped to launch in 2004. Like the gold fund, the proposed ETF attempts to provide investors access to the commodity without having to hold it. The gold fund, GLD, has increased along with gold prices this year.
She said she is optimistic about the bitcoin application.
Jim Ross, head of State Street Global Advisors’ SPDR ETFs line, said anyone who is trying to do something novel with ETFs will contact Moriarty. She has secured regulators’ approval for new products for the past two decades. These include basic stock market tracking funds, funds that attempt to replicate bonds and gold performances, as well as funds that use derivatives.
Some bitcoin observers view ETFs as a way to bring bitcoin to the investment market.
The Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC) is the only publicly-traded U.S. security in the over-the-counter market invested in the cryptocurrency and has assets of more than $60 million. Bitcoin advocate Barry Silbert and his Digital Currency Group back GBTC.
ARK Investment Management LLC in New York holds GBTC in its $12 million Next Generation Internet ETF and the $7 million ARK Innovation ETF, CCN reported in March. The company manages four exchange-traded funds with $240 million in assets.
Chris Burniske, an analyst and the blockchain products lead at ARK Invest, said GBTC has delivered 67 basis points to Next Generation Internet ETF’s return and 62 points to the ARK Innovation ETF since September 2015.
Next Generation ETF experienced a 15.29 percent return in 2015 while the Innovation ETF posted a 3.76 percent gain.
Some analysts think the fund could prompt speculative interest in bitcoin like the launch of gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) in precious metals a decade ago.
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