U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler declined to outline any of the agency’s plans for spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on Wednesday, though his agency must now decide how to proceed after the courts demanded it erase its objection to Grayscale Investments’ application.
“Those are things that are in front of staff,” he said in response to questions from CoinDesk at a Securities Enforcement Forum event in Washington. He said he would “let that play out” and not pre-judge the situation before SEC staff makes recommendations to the five-member commission.
When asked to give any indications on timing or the order applications might be considered, Gensler demurred.
Grayscale and the rest of the industry now await the outcome of a court order that vacated the SEC's rejection of the company's effort to convert GBTC to an ETF. Major financial firms such as Fidelity and BlackRock are in the same boat, eager to find out how the regulator will approach pending applications for spot ETFs. Grayscale is owned by Digital Currency Group, which is the parent company of CoinDesk.
Gensler also declined on Wednesday to comment on other court cases his agency is pursuing against crypto firms.
"I'm going to let each of these crypto exchange cases speak for themselves, and they're in front of jurists," he said. "They'll play themselves out where they play themselves out."
The chairman came to the event to make a speech about SEC enforcement, and those remarks were heavily threaded with criticisms of the crypto industry that he said -- in a frequently repeated phrase -- is "rife with non-compliance." When it came time to take questions, the moderator began with that topic, to which Gensler addressed how much crypto has become a consuming subject despite its relative scale.
"We have a $110 trillion capital market," he said. "Crypto worldwide might be a trillion, but in the U.S. is less. So just by that, it's well less than one percent of U.S. capital markets."
In the hallway outside the event ballroom, Gensler chatted with Zeke Faux, the author of the recent book about the FTX collapse, "Number Go Up." Faux inscribed a copy to Gensler, including a common crypto-world jibe, "Have fun staying poor."
UPDATE (October 25, 2023, 18:43 UTC): Adds comments from Gensler.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.