Several firms seeking to list exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tied to bitcoin have withdrawn their filings at the request of officials from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Direxion Shares ETF Trust, Exchange Listed Funds Trust and ProShares Trust all filed to create exchange-traded products in the past month. Yet notably, none of the proposed offerings would have held bitcoin directly - rather, their price movements would have been driven by changes in the still-nascent market for bitcoin futures.
As Angela Brickl, Direxion's secretary, wrote:
"On a call with the Staff on January 5, 2018, the Staff expressed concerns regarding the liquidity and valuation of the underlying instruments in which the Fund intends to primarily invest and requested that the Trust withdraw the Amendment until such time as these concerns are resolved. In response to the Staff's request, the Trust respectfully requests withdrawal of the Amendment."
ProShares' letter, dated Jan. 9, includes similar language. "This request for withdrawal is being made in response to a request from the Staff," Richard Morris, general counsel and secretary for ProShares, wrote.
The timing of these withdrawals is notable, given that the SEC just released two other rule change proposals which could allow for a bitcoin ETF last week. Those proposals, filed by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (Cboe), would exempt its proposed ETFs from several market manipulation rules which govern traditional assets. The SEC is seeking public input on the proposals.
Both of the proposed rule changes note that bitcoin does not behave like traditional assets.
While the SEC has released the Cboe proposals for public comment, it has a longer history of pressing for bitcoin ETF proposal withdrawals. Several organizations killed their ETF efforts last year at the request of the agency - at the same time, at least two of these proposals were denied because bitcoin futures contracts did not exist at the time.
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