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Grayscale argued the Securities and Exchange Commission should approve all spot Bitcoin ETF applications simultaneously, pressing for the measure in several comment letters submitted on Thursday.
“The SEC’s actions related to bitcoin ETFs should be done in a fair and orderly manner,” Grayscale’s Chief Legal Officer Craig Salm said in a statement. “As a disclosure-based regulator, the SEC should not pick winners and losers.”
The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) holds over $18 billion in assets under management and gives investors exposure to crypto’s oldest coin. The firm has taken the SEC to court over repeated denials to convert its flagship Bitcoin fund into a spot Bitcoin ETF.
A spot Bitcoin ETF would enable institutions to get exposure to Bitcoin without needing to directly hold the coin. It’s seen within the crypto community as a gateway toward large-scale Bitcoin adoption and a stamp of approval for crypto as an asset class.
A smattering of spot Bitcoin ETF applications hit the regulator's desk last month following an application from BlackRock, one of the world’s largest asset managers. Firms like Fidelity, WisdomTree, and Invesco piled in close with applications of their own, potentially turning an ETF's approval into a regulatory footrace.
The SEC has dragged its feet for over a decade on approving a spot Bitcoin ETF, striking down applications due to concerns over potential fraud and manipulation. The SEC said BlackRock and Fidelity’s applications were insufficient last month because so-called surveillance-sharing agreements for monitoring markets fell short.
Futures-based ETFs are priced based on contracts that trade on commodity exchanges like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, while spot-based ETFs would give investors direct exposure to Bitcoin.
Fidelity and BlackRock have since refined their applications, along with several others. To address the SEC’s concerns, BlackRock said it was finalizing a surveillance agreement with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
Under the surveillance-sharing agreement, Coinbase would work with Nasdaq and provide market data for orders and trades to the exchange. Nasdaq would also be able to request information from Coinbase to investigate potential manipulation.
The SEC has already approved several futures-based Bitcoin ETFs, including a leveraged one, which Grayscale has argued in court should be enough.
Reiterating Grayscale’s stance, Salm said “Bitcoin’s spot and futures markets are inextricably linked” and existing surveillance agreements for products regulated under the Commodity Futures Trading Commission should be sufficient.
The judge overseeing Grayscale’s lawsuit against the SEC appeared to show some sympathy to the GBTC-issuer in this regard during a hearing in March, scrutinizing the agency’s reluctance which Grayscale has described as arbitrary decision-making.
Whether the SEC’s approval of a spot ETF is spurred on by a court mandate or “evolution in their position on the matter,” Salm said it should be done so “in a way that’s fair for all investors and issuers.”
Grayscale has signaled it’s more than willing to work with regulators to get a spot ETF application approved. It first applied to convert GBTC into an ETF in 2016. Salm reprised the firm’s eagerness on Thursday. He said, “We will [...] take any action necessary to convert GBTC to an ETF.”