SEC Delays VanEck ETF Proposal Seeking Public Comments

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has again postponed making a decision on the VanEck, SolidX, and Cboe joint proposal bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposal.

The proposal was filed in January and was delayed in March. In a new document filed Monday, the SEC stated that it was in the process of establishing proceedings on whether to approve or disapprove a proposed rule change that would allow the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust to issue and list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Currently, the commission is seeking more comments from public on the proposed ETF as they have received only 25 comments so far. The deadline to submit comments is due 21 days from when the order is published and rebuttal to the comments are due 35 days after the publication.

Following this, the new deadline for the SEC to make its decision has been set up for August 19th , and it could be delayed one more time for a final deadline of October 18th, according to attorney Jake Chervinsky.

Originally, the bitcoin ETF proposal was first filed with the SEC last year, however due to the U.S. government shutdown it was withdrawn in January this year. VanEck/SolidX refiled the proposal later that month, only to receive a delay notice for March 29th. Similarly happened to the proposal filed by Bitwise Asset Management with NYSE Arca.

The commission has postponed making any decision on the two proposals so far this year, with the latest delay on Bitwise’s proposal coming on May 14th. Following this news, the VanEck/SolidX proposal joins the long list of failed attempts to get an ETF approved by the SEC.

Meanwhile, the commission has issued several extensions and rejections on ETF proposals, citing concerns that the proposals did not meet and satisfy SEC standards to prevent fraud, market manipulation, financial crime, liquidity amongst others.

Following today’s announcement, the SEC has reiterated these concerns:

“The Commission is instituting proceedings to allow for additional analysis of the proposed rule change’s consistency with Section 6(b)(5) of the Act, which requires, among other things, that the rules of a national securities exchange be “designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade,” and “to protect investors and the public interest.”

The SEC’s repeated delays in sanctioning a bitcoin ETF may reflect its lack of confidence in the maturity of the crypto market. As such, the regulator has turned down at least 10 ETF proposals to date and it has yet to approve one.

In response to the repeated delays, VanEck digital asset strategy director Gabor Gurbacs has stated that “we continue the hard work towards better-regulated, safer and more liquid digital assets markets. Bitcoin is too big to ignore.”

SEC Delays Decision on Bitwise Bitcoin ETF

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has delayed its decision on cryptocurrency index fund provider Bitwise Asset Management’s bitcoin (BTC) exchange traded fund (ETF).

SEC Looks for Public Comments

In its recent filing, the SEC stated that it has delayed its decision on the approval of the Bitwise ETF, and has also requested for public comments from interested parties.

As such, the Bitwise Bitcoin ETF decision was delayed for another five weeks. According to the published filing, it seems the SEC is still unsure that Bitcoin is resistant to price manipulation, along with several other issues.

Bitwise initially filed for an ETF with the SEC in February. The proposed Bitcoin ETF differs from other previously proposed Bitcoin ETFs in that it draws prices from a list of reputable cryptocurrency exchanges, with the goal of better representing the market. The Bitwise team had also provided the SEC and the public with a detailed research on cryptocurrency exchange volume and possible fake trade volume on more obscure platforms.

According to Bitwise, the ETF will satisfy the rules of the NYSE Arca, providing evidence that the ETF will be accurately priced and resistant to price manipulation. The company wants to achieve this by sourcing the price from the most reliable cryptocurrency exchanges.

Bitwise Targeting Insitutional Investors

The objective of the Bitwise Bitcoin ETF is to broaden access to the crypto-asset to institutions.

Bitwise plans to process all share creation and redemption, and accrue all fees, in Bitcoin rather than fiat. Trading activity of the ETF may have a greater impact on the supply and demand of the coin, unlike other cash-settled alternatives.

In their initial proposal Bitwise noted:

“Having a regulated bank or trust company hold physical assets of a fund has been the standard under U.S. fund regulation for the last 80 years, and we believe that is now possible with Bitcoin,”

Тhe SEC had first delayed its decision on the Bitwise ETF application in March. Following the decision, the SEC was obligated to come to a decision on whether to approve the rule change by May 16, 2019.

Per today’s filing, the public comment period will last three weeks after the most recent amendments to the Bitwise ETF application are published in the Federal Register.

New Cryptocurrency ETF Proposal Filed with the SEC

A new crypto exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposal has been filed with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), according to a posting by the SEC on May 9th.

Commodity pool operator United States Commodity Funds LLC (USCF) has created the ETF and will back it alongside Crescent Crypto, a New Jersey-based hedge-fund. USCF comes under the regulatory oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the National Futures Association under the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”), according to the filing.

The USCF Crescent Crypto Index Fund – “XBET”– will track the performance of a market capitalization weighted portfolio of Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH), offering investors cryptocurrency exposure through a public vehicle.

According to the filing, the ETF will trade “like other publicly traded securities,” brought and sold daily by investors placing “orders through their brokers and may incur customary brokerage commissions and charges.

XBET will reflect the daily changes in percentage terms of the Crescent Crypto Core II Index (CCINDX), less XBET’s expenses. The new “CCINDX” will comprise of the two cryptocurrencies – BTC and ETH – recognized as a decentralized ledger, which is not controlled by any central authority and price of which is determined by the demand and supply of the asset that is limited in number. The percentage distribution of each cryptocurrency will be re-balanced on a monthly basis.

Although it could be a while until it gets accepted, the co-sponsors expect the ETF’s shares to break even within a year, pitching the initial offering price at $20.00. If approved, the ETF will be issued as shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Arca.

At the moment, two separately filed, pure BTC based ETF applications are still pending with the SEC. Decisions on two BTC ETFs – one filed by Bitwise Asset Management with NYSE Arca, and the other one from VanEck and SolidX, in partnership with Cboe BZX Exchange – were recently postponed to be reviewed this month.

However, XBET is not the first ETF proposal which involves Ether. Back in 2017, EtherIndex had filed with the SEC to trade its ETH-based – Ether Trust – product on the NYSE Arca.

Whilst SEC has yet to approve any crypto ETFs, it may be just a matter of time before one passes with the regulator. Earlier in February, SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson stated in an interview that an ETF proposal would eventually “satisfy the standards” the regulator had set.

Blockstack Files with SEC for Its Token Sale

Blockstack, a blockchain-based applications platform launched in 2017, has announced its intent to raise $50 million in a token sale, by filing with the SEC for Regulation A+ crowdfunding exemption.

First Token Sale Filed with the SEC

The token sale, would be operated via a wholly-owned subsidiary, the “Blockstack Token LLC,” and entail the sale of 295 million Stacks (STX) tokens.

If approved, this could be the first token offering that has been registered with SEC. While the move still requires regulatory review, the sale would enable Blockstack to raise capital through the U.S. securities markets.

The Regulation A+ exemption enables equity crowd funding campaigns to offer and sell securities to U.S. investors via two tiers, either for $20 million or $50 million, each over a 12-month period.

The total amount of tokens being offered stands at 295 million. According to the SEC filing, Blockstack will be offering 215 million tokens at $0.12 to its early backers. Another 40 million tokens will be made available at $0.30 each. The final 40 million tokens will be reserved for incentivizing developers building applications on the platform.

Some of the investors that will be participating in the sale include Hardvard’s endowment fund, Lux Capital, Foundation Capital along with other individual investors.

 “The net proceeds of the offering will be used to accelerate the development of its decentralized computing stack and app ecosystem,” the company said in a release.

Previous Token Sale

The company has already raised $52 million in December 2017 by selling 440 million tokens at the time. Investors included Union Square Ventures, Foundation Capital, Winklevoss Capital and Blockchain Capital, among others.

Muneeb Ali, co-founder and CEO of Blockstack, believes this could help the cryptocurrency industry establish a proper framework for both investors and other blockchain startups.

“We’ve been working with securities lawyers to create a legal framework that can enable blockchain protocols to comply with SEC regulations.”

 “This can potentially set a precedent for others in the industry, not just for public offerings, but also as a path to launch new public blockchains and establish a path to bootstrapping decentralized ecosystems.”

According to the filing, Blockstack now employs 21 employees and has $32 million in total assets. The company has launched its native blockchain, the Stacks protocol, and has seen more than 80 decentralized applications built on its platform.

SEC Publishes Regulatory Framework for Digital Assets

On April 3rd, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has published new regulatory guidance for token issuers, under the title “Framework for ‘Investment Contract’ Analysis of Digital Assets.”

This regulatory guidance for crypto tokens has been in the works since last November, as stated by SEC Director of Corporation Finance William Hinman. Other members of the agency, including FinHub head Valerie Szczepanik and Commissioner Hester Peirce, have repeatedly stated that SEC staff was working on the document.

According to the published document, a framework issued by FinHub will be employed to analyze if digital assets fall under the securities category under the US federal security laws depending on the nature of the digital asset.

Speaking at New York University in March, FinHub Commissioner Peirce explained:

“Now staff guidance is staff guidance. The Commission can go ahead and bring enforcement actions anyway but staff guidance does carry a bit of weight, but I would like to do something more formal at the Commission level so people have a little bit more certainty.”

Apart from analyzing the nature of digital assets, this framework is intent to provide assistance to anyone who seeks to comply with the U.S. securities laws. However, the agency cautions the public to use this framework as a guideline or a tool that helps market participants recognize which digital asset offer or sale falls under the federal security laws.

Therefore, the regulatory guidance is merely a representation of the staff’s view and not a rule or an official statement made by the commission; meaning the framework is not legally binding on the divisions or the commission.

The new document outlines a number of factors that token issuers must take into consideration when analyzing whether or not their offerings qualify as securities, which includes an expectation of profit, whether a single or at least central group of entities are responsible for specific tasks within the network, and whether a group is creating or supporting a market for a digital asset.

It is also emphasized that token issuers should look at tokens previously sold: to check if previous tokens should have been registered as securities or if a digital asset previously sold as a security should be reevaluated.

The criteria for reevaluation include whether:

  • the distributed ledger network and digital asset are fully developed and operational (meaning individuals can immediately use the token for some function);
  • the token is focused on a specific use case rather than speculation;
  • Prospects for appreciation in the token’s value are limited; and if billed as a currency, the token actually operates as a store of value.

Meanwhile, the SEC has issued as well its first-ever no-action letter, which has highlighted reasons not to consider some digital assets as security. The no-action letter is not binding on courts but rather is only applicable to the recipients.