• The SEC has delayed its ruling several times this year for the VanEck Bitcoin Trust, which was filed for in December
  • SEC “can’t very well say no” to proposed futures-based bitcoin ETFs that are expected to be ruled on in late-October, CEO Jan van Eck said

As deadlines for the SEC to approve or deny VanEck’s proposed bitcoin ETFs come in the next couple months, the fund group’s CEO said he is hopeful the agency will greenlight both of them.

VanEck filed for its bitcoin trust, which would invest directly in bitcoin, on Dec. 30 of last year. A dozen or so other similar products sit alongside it in registration.

The New York-based firm more recently applied to launch a bitcoin strategy ETF in August. The actively managed fund would invest in bitcoin futures contracts as well as pooled investment vehicles and exchange-traded products that provide exposure to the cryptocurrency.

“It’s very consistent for [the SEC] to approve both products, so hopefully they’ll make that leap in a matter of weeks,” CEO Jan van Eck said Thursday evening during a virtual event hosted by the Museum of American Finance.

The SEC has delayed making a decision on the VanEck Bitcoin Trust several times this year, noting in documents that the agency needed more time to evaluate the proposal.  

But van Eck said during the panel discussion that the physically backed bitcoin ETF filing reaches its last deadline — meaning the SEC cannot again postpone its decision — on Nov. 14.

Before that, the SEC is expected to rule on the bitcoin strategy ETF during the last week of October, the CEO added. 

VanEck, along with other issuers such as ProShares and Invesco, revealed plans to launch a futures-based bitcoin ETF after SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said during a virtual forum in early August that the SEC would “look forward” to reviewing ETF applications limited to investing in bitcoin futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, or CME. The CME is regulated by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

“[Gensler]’s much more comfortable with dealing with regulated exchanges and entities that the SEC can interact with or other federal regulators can interact with, so that’s why he said positive things about the bitcoin futures,” van Eck explained.

Former CFTC Chairman Christopher Giancarlo, one of van Eck’s co-panelists at the event, noted that the CFTC several years ago received pressure from regulators in the US and abroad not to approve bitcoin futures. The commission announced in December 2017 that it would allow bitcoin futures trading on three exchanges: CME, the Cboe Futures Exchange and the Cantor Exchange.

Giancarlo served at the CFTC from June 2014 to 2019, joining after Gensler’s tenure as chairman from 2009 to January 2014.

“I take some pride in the fact that the chairman of the SEC and former chairman of the CFTC looks to that market for the basis for an ETF,” Giancarlo said. “Sometimes when regulators are willing to [have] some courage and move forward, it actually produces something, and the United States has a long history of that.”

While some have said they don’t expect the SEC to approve a physically backed bitcoin ETF until at least 2023, industry professionals are more optimistic about the proposed futures-based offerings.  

“The horse has left the barn on that,” van Eck said. “There are plenty of mutual funds and funds generally that already own bitcoin futures, so you can’t very well say no, because [Gensler] would be disrupting a lot of mutual funds that are already in operation.”

  • Ben Strack is a Denver-based reporter covering macro economics, financial services and digital asset management. Prior to joining Blockworks, he covered the asset management industry for Fund Intelligence, and was a reporter and editor for various local newspapers on Long Island. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism.