SEC Publishes VanEck's Bitcoin ETF Application, Kicking Off Decision Clock

The regulator now has 45 days to approve or deny the application or extend the review period.

Mar 18, 2021 at 8:42 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:28 p.m. UTC

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) acknowledged VanEck’s 19b-4 Form for its bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) application on Monday, formally kicking off its 45-day window to make an initial decision on the proposal.

If approved, the ETF would be the first open bitcoin exchange-traded product in the U.S., though there has long been demand for such a product from the crypto community. Historically, the SEC has rejected every bitcoin ETF application, including VanEck’s past efforts, citing the potential for market manipulation and a host of other concerns.

However, industry pundits believe the agency may finally be ready to approve one under incoming Chair Gary Gensler, a former Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman who has been fairly bullish on crypto and blockchain, teaching courses on the technology at MIT in recent years.

VanEck filed for the ETF with Cboe BZX Exchange earlier this year, with Cboe publishing the 19b-4 at the beginning of March. Once the document is published in the Federal Register (the nation's logbook), the general public will have 21 days to submit comments on the SEC's portal.

The SEC can extend the review period up to 240 days before it has to make a final decision. When evaluating past applications, it has always extended these decisions to their full time limit.

A number of other companies, including Valkyrie and WisdomTree, have filed for bitcoin ETFs in recent months, after several applications were rejected in late 2019 and early 2020. Grayscale, a subsidiary of CoinDesk's parent firm Digital Currency Group, recently posted a number of job listings for ETF specialists as well.

Recent ETF approvals in Canada may also hint an ETF is on its way in the U.S. Three have already begun trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, marking the first North American bitcoin ETFs, with one seeing nearly $500 million in assets under management within its first few days.

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