SEC Halts Geared Bitcoin ETF Filings

Two bids to start funds with more exposure to BTC futures hit a regulatory wall.

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Reviewed by: Dan Mika
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Edited by: Dan Mika

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In just under a full week, the SEC has put the kibosh on two issuers seeking to launch inverse and leveraged versions of bitcoin futures-linked ETFs.

In the span of hours last Tuesday, Valkyrie Funds filed for an ETF that provided leverage of a multiple of 1.25 over the price of bitcoin futures, while Direxion filed for a fund providing -1x exposure.

However, both issuers have pulled their filings in recent days, saying that the SEC had requested withdrawals of those ETF proposals that same day based on reasons from a 2018 letter outlining the SEC’s questions on cryptocurrencies and fund management.

Valkyrie issued a withdrawal form on Friday, while Direxion pulled its filing Tuesday evening

Neither issuer disclosed which parts of the letter the SEC had determined were grounds for objection for those filings moving forward.

The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SEC Hesitancy

It is not clear whether the SEC’s requests came from an ongoing skittishness toward allowing cryptocurrencies as an underlying asset for an ETF, its hostility toward inverse and leveraged funds or a combination of both.

SEC Chairman Gary Gensler directed his staff to begin a review of inverse and leveraged exchange-traded products in early October, saying the funds pose a risk to both retail investors who may not fully understand the need to check those investments daily, and the potential to inflict stress on a volatile market.

While U.S. regulators allowed the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) and the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BTF) to launch midway through last month, the next test for backers of the cryptocurrency is approval of a physical bitcoin ETF. The SEC is required to issue a formal approval or denial to VanEck’s bitcoin ETF application for such a fund by Nov. 14; the issuer's futures-based bitcoin ETF has SEC approval, and its launch is pending.

Contact Dan Mika at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter

Dan Mika is a reporter for etf.com. He has previously covered business for the Ames Tribune and Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa, and BizWest Media in Fort Collins, Colorado. Dan holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Truman State University.