An opinion article published today on Bloomberg makes a case for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to approve a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).
According to the piece, authored by former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Timothy Massad, such a product could "enhance transparency and integrity" in the Bitcoin industry.
"A Bitcoin ETF would be a way for retail investors to invest in cryptocurrency without having to actually purchase it and deal with the complexities of custody," wrote Massad.
Massad, a research fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, also claimed in his article that the SEC could use the bitcoin ETF approval process to improve the transparency and integrity of trading on bitcoin exchanges.
"The approval would be granted on the condition that the ETF price be based on an index of exchanges meeting certain prescribed standards, similar to those for securities and derivatives exchanges," he said.
Massad added that because bitcoin is not a security or a commodity traded on futures contracts, neither the SEC nor the CFTC can enforce rules and regulate bitcoin exchanges.
"This means neither agency has the authority to set standards for Coinbase, Kraken and other U.S.-based crypto exchanges," Massad continued. "And it means investor protection is weak. There are no rules to prevent fraud, manipulation and other abusive practices. There are no disclosure or reporting requirements. There are no prohibitions of conflicts of interest — some exchanges have proprietary trading operations that can compete against customer trades, and some have financial interests in the crypto assets they list."
The SEC has seen many filings for a bitcoin ETF in recent years. But although North American neighbor Canada has already approved one, which has seen significant demand, the U.S. is yet to list an option. Since 2017, companies in the space have been trying to list a bitcoin ETF –– only to hit a brick wall. This year, however, the race has heated up.
At the beginning of 2021, Valkyrie Digital Assets filed for approval of a bitcoin ETF with the SEC, followed by institutional bitcoin solutions-provider NYDIG in February. And in March, the influx was even more remarkable, with CBOE Global Markets leading the way and submitting a filing to list and trade shares of VanEck's proposed bitcoin ETF. A couple more companies also handed paperwork over to the SEC that month, including SkyBridge Capital and Fidelity.
Although the SEC has been reluctant to approve a bitcoin ETF in the U.S., an ETF analyst shared in May that such a listing might become a reality in the country this year. Eric Balchunas claimed that 2021 is different than other years due to the unprecedented institutional bitcoin adoption levels of the last half year.
An ETF offering for an investment likely represents a significant mainstream adoption milestone. Freed from the complexity behind the asset itself, retail investors can enjoy price exposure through a simple, regulated avenue.
But that doesn't come without intrinsic drawbacks. Although retail can get exposure to USD price fluctuations of the underlying asset through its ETF, it does not possess that product itself –– being that gold or BTC. And that is a subtle but very important difference, especially for bitcoin. Those who seek to be empowered by this unique network and its transformative nuances would need to purchase and custody the BTC themselves, which isn't rocket science, thanks to some great resources.