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SEC Faces Thursday Deadline for ProShares Bitcoin ETF Decision

The SEC will approve or disapprove a rule change proposal to list the ProShares Bitcoin ETFs sometime this week.

Aug 20, 2018 at 3:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:18 a.m. UTC

Less than a month after delaying a decision on a bitcoin-based exchange-traded fund (ETF), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is poised to approve or disapprove another pair of proposed ETFs. 

Officials at the U.S. securities regulator are set to make a decision on the ProShares Bitcoin ETF and the ProShares Short Bitcoin ETF by Thursday, August 23. Unlike this month's earlier decision to push an approval for the Cboe's VanEck/SolidX bitcoin ETF, this rule change proposal – filed by ProShares in conjunction with NYSE Arca – cannot be delayed any further under the regulator's rules.

The ProShares ETF proposals – initially submitted to the SEC last December – are underpinned by bitcoin futures contracts, rather than any physical holdings of bitcoin itself. In other words, the ETF's value will be determined by the bitcoin futures contracts trading on CME or the Cboe Futures Exchange, according to the original filing.

ProShares originally proposed the futures-based ETFs in September 2017, but noted at the time that the futures market was young and "there can be no assurance that an active trading market for bitcoin futures contracts will develop or be maintained," according to the filing.

The ProShares Trust previously asked the SEC to withdraw a proposed rule change filed on Dec. 19, 2017 which outlined the ProShares Bitcoin and Short Bitcoin ETFs, as well as the ProShares Bitcoin Futures/Equity Strategy ETF and the ProShares Bitcoin/Blockchain Strategy ETF.

The withdrawal request came after the SEC pushed back against a number of ETF proposals, citing concerns about bitcoin's volatility at the time. Direxion Shares, VanEck and First Trust Advisors also withdrew a number of similar bitcoin ETF proposals at the time.

However, the SEC later announced it was considering the futures-pinned proposals at the end of January.

To date, the regulator has only denied or delayed bitcoin ETF proposals, with the latest denial coming last month when it rejected a proposal filed by Gemini founders and long-time bitcoin investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.

The proposal had already been rejected in the spring of 2017, but the Bats BZX Exchange, which submitted the proposal, filed an appeal that was later heard by SEC commissioners. 

Calendar image via Shutterstock

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