- Despite BlackRock’s application for a Bitcoin ETF, expert consensus warns of several challenges delaying immediate spot Bitcoin ETF approvals.
- BlackRock’s entry into the Bitcoin ETF space has stirred market sentiment, however regulatory concerns, such as the unregulated nature of crypto exchanges, remain significant barriers.
Stepping into the spotlight of the cryptocurrency discourse, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has recently applied to start a Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF). The move has sparked buoyant anticipation in the market, instilling hopes of a groundbreaking approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Despite the excitement, however, industry insiders argue that the path to widespread adoption of spot Bitcoin ETFs is riddled with hurdles.
Regulatory Woes: The Achilles’ Heel of Bitcoin ETFs
The major impediment to spot Bitcoin ETFs is regulatory approval. This is particularly due to the unregulated nature of cryptocurrency exchanges, a point raised by Stuart Barton, Chief Investment Officer at Volatility Shares, a firm that recently successfully filed an application for a leveraged Bitcoin ETF. As Barton notes, crypto exchanges becoming regulated is a multi-year process, which must precede the approval of an ETF. Currently, no regulated exchange trades Bitcoin.
Compounding the approval challenges are potential legal hurdles. James Koutoulas, hedge fund manager, and Jai Waterman, CEO of Blockstation, caution that a green light for a spot Bitcoin ETF in the U.S. is unlikely in the near term. They point to pending lawsuits, such as the one involving Coinbase, as key issues the SEC will likely consider before giving any approval. Regulatory scrutiny requires a spotless track record, and as such, institutions with ongoing litigation may face greater barriers to approval.
Despite the regulatory headwinds, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink remains confident, expressing optimism that Bitcoin could indeed revolutionize the financial system. Nevertheless, Fink acknowledges that approval for a Bitcoin ETF may take time, a sentiment echoed by experts and industry insiders alike.
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SEC’s Dilemma: Balancing Innovation and Investor Protection
A particular complexity associated with the ETF approval process is the SEC rule 19b-4. This regulation necessitates SEC approval for changes to trading rules by self-regulated entities, such as NASDAQ and Cboe’s BZX Exchange. These entities aim to assume compliance responsibilities, which are currently beyond the reach of unregulated exchanges like Coinbase. As such, the SEC is in a powerful position to scrutinize changes in trading rules, thereby slowing down the process of approving a spot Bitcoin ETF.
The Long Road to Bitcoin ETFs
While the crypto community eagerly awaits a spot Bitcoin ETF approval, it’s important to note that the process is more a marathon than a sprint. Despite the challenges, if any entity has the clout to overcome these obstacles, it may well be BlackRock. As Koutoulas and Waterman point out, BlackRock’s robust track record and significant resources put it in a strong position to lead the race. Yet, as the industry has often shown, nimbleness can often trump size, adding another layer of intrigue to this unfolding crypto narrative.
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