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Regulatory Outlook for Spot Bitcoin ETFs

Martin Walker
Oct 14, 2023 at 10:59 am

The looming deadline for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to make a decision regarding the court's recent ruling in favor of Grayscale Investments on their application to convert Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) into a spot Bitcoin ETF is rapidly approaching, adding to the anticipation and speculation in the financial arena.

Analysts are closely watching the situation and considering various potential scenarios, with some suggesting that the SEC may choose not to challenge the court's decision. However, they also envision potential strategies the SEC might employ to prolong the approval process for Grayscale's sought-after spot Bitcoin ETF conversion.

As the calendar approaches October 13, the date by which the SEC must take action in response to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, multiple options are on the table. These options include the prospect of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a request for the Appeals Court to revisit its ruling, or strict adherence to the court's August order mandating a thorough review of Grayscale's application to change GBTC into a spot Bitcoin ETF.

In an informative post dated October 12, Bloomberg ETF analyst Eric Balchunas expressed skepticism about the likelihood of an appeal while acknowledging the ever-present possibility of unforeseen developments that could influence the situation. "We consider an appeal unlikely... But there's always a possibility of unforeseen developments," Balchunas noted, underscoring the inherent uncertainty in such regulatory matters.

In a separate insightful post, fellow Bloomberg ETF analyst James Seyffart weighed in on the situation, noting that an attempt by the SEC to deny the application on new grounds seemed improbable, describing it as a "very intricate situation to navigate." However, he also acknowledged the potential for the SEC to employ various strategies to further delay the decision, maintaining a sense of unpredictability in the process.

A noteworthy observation from the reputable law firm Ropes & Gray in a September note presented a scenario wherein the GBTC application might be sent back to the SEC for a comprehensive review. This could potentially grant the regulator another opportunity to reject the application, this time on different grounds, underscoring the multifaceted nature of the legal and regulatory landscape.

Another conceivable scenario presented by Ropes & Gray outlined the possibility of a delay if the New York Stock Exchange found it necessary to file a new request to list GBTC, potentially leading to an extended eight-month deliberation period by the SEC for the ETF decision. Such scenarios further highlight the intricate nature of the regulatory processes involved.

At present, the SEC is contending with at least seven spot Bitcoin ETF applications, all awaiting approval. Despite their timely filing earlier in 2023, these applications have faced their fair share of setbacks and resistance from the SEC, contributing to the prolongation of the final approval deadlines, now expected to extend to around March 2024 or later for most applications.

The attention of the financial community is largely centered on Grayscale's spot Bitcoin ETF conversion application. Its potential approval carries significant implications, potentially setting a precedent that could make it challenging for the SEC to reject other similar applications in the future, adding to the intrigue and significance of the ongoing regulatory developments.

Updating their predictions following Grayscale's recent legal victory, Bloomberg analysts currently estimate a 75% likelihood of an approved spot Bitcoin ETF this year. These odds escalate to a substantial 95% likelihood of approval by the end of 2024, further fueling discussions and speculations in the financial world.

Read more about: Bitcoin in Focus: Recent Trends and Insights

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