In brief

  • VanEck has refiled its application for a Bitcoin ETF.
  • Its filing comes just a few days after the SEC chair left.
  • Is the SEC likely to approve its application?

Once more into the breach, dear friends! Investment firm VanEck has refiled its submission for a Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, one year after it withdrew its previous application.

VanEck withdrew its last attempt at an ETF on September 17, 2019, after several attempts were blocked by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC has repeatedly blocked Bitcoin ETFs submissions because it believes the Bitcoin market is prone to manipulation, so no ETFs for anyone.

In a September 2019 interview with CNBC, former SEC chair Jay Clayton said, "How do we know we can custody and have a hold of these crypto assets" Clayton Continued, "given that they (cryptocurrency) trade on largely unregulated exchanges? How can we be sure those prices aren't subject to significant manipulation?"

Exchange-traded funds, also known as ETFs, let you trade baskets of assets on the stock market. Shares in a Bitcoin ETF would track the price of Bitcoin, so a Bitcoin ETF would effectively allow you to trade Bitcoin on the stock market. 

The advantages of a Bitcoin ETF is manifold: investors don't have to own Bitcoin or store it. A Bitcoin ETF would also allow people to invest in Bitcoin from tax-sheltered accounts, meaning that more people could get into crypto, increasing its adoption and, with any luck, its price. 

The VanEck Bitcoin ETF refiling comes at a time of transition at the SEC, with former chairman Jay Clayton having resigned on December 23, 2020; it could be that VanEck sees a chance with a new administration. Decrypt has reached out to VanEck and will update this article with any responses.

Decrypt asked Mati Greenspan, founder of Quantum Economics, about VanEck's chances of getting their Bitcoin ETF through. Greenspan said, "VanEck has by far been the most persistent about getting an ETF through the SEC but Clayton kept blocking it. It only makes sense for them to try again now that he's gone."

Quantum Economics' Greenspan continued, "We really hope it goes through this time as it would be particularly helpful during this time of institutional demand."

If VanEck's Bitcoin ETF is successful, it will trade on the Cboe BZX Exchange as the VanEck Bitcoin Trust. VanEck Digital Assets, LLC is the sponsor of the VanEck Bitcoin Trust, Delaware Trust Company is the trustee of the Trust, and a yet-to-be-named party would be the custodian of the Trust, who will hold all of the Trust's bitcoin on the Trust's behalf.

But an application for a Bitcoin ETF does not a Bitcoin ETF make. “It is a positive sign,” bitFlyer COO Joel Edgerton told Decrypt, “but the underlying issue of market integrity raised by the SEC has not been completely addressed in the filing.” 

“We need a market surveillance mechanism to stop possible price manipulation and the method suggested by Van Eck may not be sufficient for the incoming regulators,” Edgerton went on to say.

While US investors wait, the closest thing they have to an ETF right now is something like the publicly-traded Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, which represents shares in a big pot of privately-invested money used to buy billions in Bitcoin. 

But while Grayscale's product is expensive and frequently trades at a hefty premium, ETFs are, at least in theory, cheaper. For now, theory’s all US investors have.