Bitcoin ETFs Granted SEC Approval in Historic Action

By Decrypt January 11, 2024 In Bitcoin
A Bitcoin ETF would track the price of Bitcoin. Image: Shutterstock.

In a historic move, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved a rule change that would allow the first spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to begin trading. The approval is a huge milestone in the cryptocurrency industry as it comes after nearly a decade of persistent efforts and numerous rejections from the SEC.

An exchange-traded fund, or ETF, is an investment vehicle that allows traders to buy shares that are backed by Bitcoin without directly holding the asset themselves. There have been Bitcoin futures ETFs available to U.S. investors for a while now, but the SEC has been resistant to a spot ETF, which would be designed to track the real-time price of Bitcoin.

The journey toward this landmark approval began in July 2013, when Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss first proposed the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust. However, the SEC officially rejected their proposal in March 2017, citing concerns over Bitcoin’s market volatility and potential investor risks. This set the tone for subsequent rejections of various Bitcoin ETF proposals over the years.

The SEC’s stance against a spot Bitcoin ETF seemed rooted in concerns about the cryptocurrency market’s structure, including issues like price discovery, trade execution, liquidity, and potential market manipulation. This skepticism was evident in 2018 when the SEC rejected nine applications in a single day, including those from ETF specialists like ProShares.


In 2020, the departure of SEC Chair Jay Clayton and the nomination of Gary Gensler as his replacement in January 2021 brought renewed optimism, given Gensler’s deeper perceived understanding of and past comments on cryptocurrencies.

But it’s not been smooth sailing with Gensler at the helm of the securities regulator. As recently as a week ago, during a CNBC interview, the SEC chair was calling crypto the “wild west” and bemoaning a rash of noncompliance among industry players.

Yet, the persistence from various players in the industry, including major financial institutions like BlackRock, Fidelity, and WisdomTree, has continued.

Most recently, potential issuers have proposed using cash-only creation for shares of their Bitcoin ETFs—a move which would limit firms’ exposure to having to handle Bitcoin directly.

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