SEC officially approves spot bitcoin ETFs in landmark decision

The SEC approved spot bitcoin ETFs a day after the regulator’s “compromised” X account prematurely shared such news

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Artwork by Crystal Le

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has officially approved a swathe of planned spot bitcoin ETFs, marking a milestone for the fund and crypto industries. 

The regulator greenlit proposals by BlackRock, Fidelity, Grayscale, Bitwise, VanEck, Valkyrie, Invesco, WisdomTree, Franklin Templeton and Hashdex, as well as one by Ark Invest and 21Shares, according to a Wednesday filing.

There had been no “effective” registration statements — a necessary step for final spot bitcoin ETFs to list — as of 4:30 pm ET.

The price of bitcoin is trading at roughly $45,800 as of 4:30 pm ET. 

Read more: Apparent spot bitcoin ETF approval order is posted, then removed from SEC website

The SEC’s official announcement came Wednesday — a day after the SEC’s X account made an “unauthorized tweet” prematurely greenlighting such funds, SEC Chair Gary Gensler said at the time. 

Gensler confirmed the Wednesday approvals in a statement

“While we approved the listing and trading of certain spot bitcoin ETP shares today, we did not approve or endorse bitcoin,” Gensler said. “Investors should remain cautious about the myriad risks associated with bitcoin and products whose value is tied to crypto.”

A Grayscale spokesperson confirmed to Blockworks in a statement Wednesday that it “received necessary regulatory approvals” to uplist its Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) to NYSE Arca.

Hashdex Chief Investment Officer Samir Kerbage called it “a monumental day in the history of digital assets.”

“The approval of 19b-4s marks the next phase for the industry by allowing US investors to fully participate in the promise of bitcoin, and we are thrilled to play a leading role in this next wave of growth and innovation,” he added.

The SEC decision does not come as a total surprise, despite the regulator repeatedly blocking such funds for years. 

Bloomberg Intelligence analysts had pegged the chances of approval at 90% in recent months, and executives had noted a “pattern break” related to constructive dialogue between the SEC and fund issuers.  

Read more: The decade-long road to (possible) spot bitcoin ETF approval

Ark Invest and 21Shares renewed their efforts in April to bring a spot bitcoin ETF to market. Asset management giant BlackRock then filed to launch a similar offering in June, turning industry heads and setting off a new wave of refiings by a swathe of issuers.

The approval comes by the SEC’s Jan. 10 deadline to rule on the ARK 21Shares Bitcoin ETF. Both analysts and Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood expected the SEC to approve more than one ETF proposal by the deadline. 

Grayscale Investments notched a court victory over the SEC in August — a decision segment observers said put additional pressure on the regulator to approve bitcoin ETFs. The SEC chose not to appeal that ruling in October, a move that contributed to a bitcoin rally bled into the following months.

Read more: To gauge impact of bitcoin spot ETF, analysts look to gold

Galaxy Digital CEO Mike Novogratz said during a November earnings call last year that a spot bitcoin ETF would “open the door” for institutions coming into the crypto space. His firm teamed up with Invesco for its spot bitcoin ETF bid.

“There will be volatility around the announcement; there will be volatility around the actual implementation of an ETF,” Novogratz noted at the time. “But I think six months, 12 months down the road, you will have seen a lot of capital — small for portfolios, a lot in aggregate — shift into our space.”

Indeed, 88% of financial advisers interested in buying BTC said they were waiting for a spot bitcoin ETF to launch, according to a recent survey by Bitwise and VettaFi

Ark’s Wood said during a December webinar that spot bitcoin ETF approval could serve as “the final seal of approval” for institutions considering involvement in the crypto space.

Prior to the approval, a fee war broke out between the potential issuers. Bitwise, BlackRock, Ark Invest and Fidelity were among a handful of firms to recently update their planned fund fees below 0.30% — levels that segment observers noted reflect the upcoming fight for assets.


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