The SEC today rejected an application for a spot market Bitcoin ETF from First Trust Advisors and SkyBridge.
First Advisors and SkyBridge Capital's application was filed last May. The two investment firms teamed up to try and get the exchange-traded fund approved but the regulatory body said in a Thursday note that the ETF didn’t meet "the requirement that the rules of a national securities exchange be 'designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices' and 'to protect investors and the public interest'."
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who runs SkyBridge Capital, last year told Decrypt that he was hopeful the SEC would approve a Bitcoin ETF by the end of 2021.
"I'm hoping that with the introduction of Gary Gensler now into the regulatory rubric, and my understanding of where he's coming from, although I don't know it personally, is that possibly we can get an ETF in place by the end of the year," he said at the time, referring to the SEC’s new boss.
But a Bitcoin ETF doesn't exist in the U.S. yet because the SEC is reluctant to approve one, citing concerns over potential price manipulation in the cryptocurrency market.
An ETF is an investment product that lets investors buy shares that represent an asset—like gold. With an ETF, investors don't deal with the asset themselves. In this case, a Bitcoin ETF would let investors invest in the cryptocurrency without having to deal with things like storage of the digital asset.
The option to gain exposure to Bitcoin through an ETF does exist for traditional investors, though. In October, the SEC allowed the first Bitcoin futures ETFs to begin trading, and these products were initially met with much enthusiasm from investors. Trading volume for Bitcoin futures ETFs have since waned, along with the rest of the crypto market, as prices for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other leading coins have dropped considerably.
Futures ETFs are different from spot market ETFs: their shares represent contracts that bet on the future price of Bitcoin—and not the asset itself—and the trading of these derivative products is regulated by the CFTC.