SEC delays ruling on proposed bitcoin ETF by Ark, 21Shares

The US securities regulator is requesting public comments as it determines whether to approve or deny the product


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The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday did not say yes to the spot bitcoin ETF proposed by Ark Invest and 21Shares. 

It also didn’t say no. 

The SEC in a filing said it would “institute proceedings” to determine whether it should approve or deny the bitcoin ETF — one of a handful of proposals that have piled up on the regulator’s desk in recent months. 

“Institution of proceedings does not indicate that the Commission has reached any conclusions with respect to any of the issues involved,” the SEC filing notes. The regulator requested public comment on the proposal, which bakes more time into the process. 

“While we are highly confident, we understand that the process for approving a spot BTC product will not happen overnight so we remain committed to providing an efficient, regulated, safe and reliable way to access bitcoin for the US market,” Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood and 21Shares CEO Hany Rashwan said in a joint statement.

The SEC has 240 days — broken into four periods of 45 days, 45 days, 90 days and 60 days — to consider the bitcoin ETFs in front of them. At the end of the first three periods, the SEC must either allow the planned product to launch, block it from doing so or say it needs more time to decide. 

This latest request for at least another 90 days comes after the SEC delayed its decision for this planned product in June, setting up Aug. 13 as its next deadline. 

Now, the next date the SEC is set to rule on, or delay its decision for, the ARK 21Shares Bitcoin ETF is Nov. 11, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst James Seyffart. The SEC must rule one way or the other at the end of 240 days, a period set to expire on Jan. 10. 

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Discussion around spot bitcoin ETFs got a jolt when asset management giant BlackRock submitted an application for such a product in June. A number of firms that had previously tried, and failed, to bring bitcoin ETFs to market over the last decade, quickly re-filed similar proposals in the days afterward.

But Ark Invest and 21Shares had together revealed plans for their own bitcoin ETF in April, putting them ahead of the latest wave of filers. 

Read more: Ark, 21Shares look to ‘strengthen’ bitcoin ETF filing after BlackRock joins race

The SEC’s Friday decision was not unexpected. 

Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Eric Balchunas said on Bloomberg TV Monday he expected the SEC to delay. Ark’s Wood noted during the interview with Balchunas that “you’re probably right that August 13 will come and go.”

“I think the SEC, if it’s going to approve a bitcoin ETF, will approve more than one at once,” Wood said at the time.

Updated Aug. 11, 2023 at 12:52 pm ET: Added statement from 21Shares and Ark Invest CEOs.

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