Grayscale Ruling: US Court of Appeals Clears Path for Bitcoin ETFs


In a significant legal development, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has removed hurdles for the introduction of Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs). On Tuesday, the court ruled in favour of Grayscale, a cryptocurrency investment firm, in a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The lawsuit pertained to the SEC’s rejection of Grayscale’s application to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into an ETF. This decision could potentially set a precedent for other firms seeking to launch Bitcoin ETFs, including financial giants like BlackRock and Fidelity.

The concept of a spot Bitcoin ETF involves trading the ETF on traditional stock exchanges, with the actual Bitcoin holdings maintained by a brokerage. This structure offers investors exposure to the world’s leading cryptocurrency without the need to hold the digital assets themselves. Enthusiasts in the cryptocurrency community speculate that the approval of such ETFs could accelerate mainstream institutional adoption of Bitcoin.

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Following the news, the prices of major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether experienced notable surges. Coinbase, a leading cryptocurrency exchange and a partner in several spot Bitcoin ETF applications, saw its stock price increase by more than 14 per cent on Tuesday.

In its ruling, the court criticised the SEC’s inconsistency in regulatory decisions. While the SEC had previously approved the listing of two Bitcoin futures exchange-traded products (ETPs), it had denied Grayscale’s proposed Bitcoin ETF without a coherent explanation. The court considered this differential treatment of similar products to be unlawful.

Grayscale Investments, renowned for managing the world’s largest crypto fund, initiated the legal action against the SEC in June 2022 after the regulatory agency rejected its application to transform its flagship Bitcoin fund, known by its ticker GBTC, into an ETF. This move by Grayscale followed the SEC’s approval of ProShares’ futures-based Bitcoin ETF in October 2021.

Despite facing several delays, the SEC ultimately declined Grayscale’s application last summer, citing concerns about potential market manipulation and investor safeguards.

The SEC responded to the court’s decision with a statement saying, “We are reviewing the court’s decision to determine next steps.”

As reported by CNBC, A spokesperson for Grayscale hailed the court’s ruling as a “monumental step forward” and expressed enthusiasm for advancing Bitcoin exposure through the added security of an ETF wrapper. Grayscale and its legal advisors are currently reviewing the court’s opinion and considering their next actions in conjunction with the SEC.

The report also added that legal experts suggest that the SEC’s ability to contest the ruling is limited. Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor and current trial partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, emphasised that the SEC has few avenues left to deny Grayscale’s application.

Industry insiders speculate that the SEC might choose to accept the court’s decision as a strategic move, the report stated, granting the regulator a measure of oversight over the Bitcoin spot market through a spot Bitcoin ETF.

Grayscale’s GBTC, managing $16 billion in assets as of Tuesday, was among the first investment products that allowed brokerage account holders to gain Bitcoin exposure. Launched in 2013, well ahead of the introduction of Bitcoin ETFs in Canada and Bitcoin futures ETFs in the US, GBTC has been a lucrative venture, yielding a 2 per cent annual fee for its parent company, Digital Currency Group.

Experts predict that the recent ruling could pave the way for other major players like BlackRock and Fidelity to seek ETF approvals with higher confidence. Despite the SEC’s historical trend of rejecting over 30 ETF proposals since 2021, BlackRock’s application in June and its track record of successful ETF introductions indicate a shift in sentiment. With nearly all of its past 575 ETF applications gaining approval, BlackRock’s potential entry into the space could reshape the ETF landscape.

Disclaimer: Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. Cryptocurrency is not a legal tender and is subject to market risks. Readers are advised to seek expert advice and read offer document(s) along with related important literature on the subject carefully before making any kind of investment whatsoever. Cryptocurrency market predictions are speculative and any investment made shall be at the sole cost and risk of the readers.


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