Ether ETFs Clear Major Hurdle, Though SEC Hasn't Cleared Them for Trading Yet

"A week ago, I would've said you were a little crazy to think that these ETFs were going to get SEC approval," a Bloomberg analyst said.

AccessTimeIconMay 23, 2024 at 9:16 p.m. UTC
Updated May 29, 2024 at 4:16 p.m. UTC
  • Ether ETFs took a major step toward becoming available in the U.S. as the SEC approved key regulatory filings.
  • Just days ago, prospects for the ETFs looked bleak.

Spot ether (ETH) exchange-traded funds took a giant leap toward reality on Thursday after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved key regulatory filings tied to them, a milestone for the second-largest cryptocurrency.

They are not yet cleared to trade, though. The SEC gave its blessing to so-called 19b-4 forms tied to the ETFs, but the regulator must approve their S-1 filings before investors can buy them.

The approval follows a stunning turnaround by the markets regulator. After clearing spot bitcoin ETFs earlier this year, the SEC didn't seem to engage much with issuers on ether ETFs. That changed in recent days.

"A week ago, I would've said you were a little crazy to think that these ETFs were going to get SEC approval," James Seyffart, ETF analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said in an interview ahead of the decision.

In a statement, a Grayscale spokesperson confirmed the regulator had approved its 19b-4.

"At Grayscale, we appreciate the opportunity to engage constructively with regulators as they review spot Ethereum ETFs, and we remain optimistic about the potential of bringing Ethereum further into the US regulatory perimeter in the ETF wrapper," they said.

Would-be spot ether ETF issuers include BlackRock, Fidelity, Grayscale, VanEck, Franklin Templeton, Ark/21Shares and Invesco/Galaxy.

Although the approval of the 19b-4 filings suggests that regulators are willing to allow issuers to bring a spot ether ETF on the market, it doesn't guarantee that they will ultimately approve the final S-1 forms filed by all issuers.

"There is likely to be a gap before we see S-1 approvals and these ETFs begin trading. My guess is that this will take at least a week, but likely more. If history is any guide it could be much longer and be measured in months. But I personally think the gap will be measured in weeks. Everyone is just guessing right now though.” Seyffart said.

Regulators sent a shock wave through the industry on Monday when reports came out that issuers were asked to update their 19b-4 filings ahead of the SEC's deadline to approve or deny one of the issuers, VanEck’s filing.

An SEC spokesperson said the agency would not comment beyond what's in the order published Thursday.

In a statement, 21Shares Head of Legal Andrew Jacobson said the approval was "a significant step in the right direction."

Cboe Global Head of ETP Listings Rob Marrocco said the exchange, which plans to list five different spot ether ETF products, was "excited to expand our offerings" to the ETFs. The 19b-4 approval is a step toward those listings.

"The introduction of spot bitcoin ETFs in January has already demonstrated significant benefits for the digital assets and ETF space, and we believe that spot Ether ETFs will similarly provide safeguards for U.S. investors, allowing them to gain Ether exposure in a transparent, well-regulated and easily accessible structure," he said.

The exchange will continue working with the SEC to bring the ETFs to market, he said.

VanEck expects to be the first issuer to launch its spot ether ETF, said the company's head of digital assets research, Matthew Sigal.

UPDATE (May 23, 2024, 21:30 UTC): Adds additional information, including SEC statement.

UPDATE (May 23, 2024, 21:50 UTC): Adds statements from issuers, Cboe.

Edited by Nikhilesh De and Nick Baker.


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Helene Braun

Helene is a New York-based reporter covering Wall Street, the rise of the spot bitcoin ETFs and crypto exchanges. She is also the co-host of CoinDesk's Markets Daily show. Helene is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program and has appeared on CBS News, YahooFinance and Nasdaq TradeTalks. She holds BTC and ETH.

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