Gary Gensler Had The Opportunity To Stop A Spot Bitcoin ETF, So Why Didn’t He?

Here are some of the major developments in the world of cryptocurrencies over the past few days.
Some of the major developments from the world of crypto.
Some of the major developments from the world of crypto.

The recent approval of a spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has led to speculation about SEC Chair Gary Gensler's motives. Many had anticipated Gensler, who has often highlighted the risks associated with crypto investments, to potentially block such a development. However, during the SEC's vote on the spot Bitcoin ETF, Gensler joined two other commissioners in favour of approval, while two commissioners dissented. This 3-2 vote raised questions about Gensler's stance, with some suggesting he may have been the decisive vote. Gensler, in a subsequent statement, maintained his critical view of crypto, referring to Bitcoin as a "speculative, volatile asset" and emphasizing that the SEC's approval did not constitute an endorsement of Bitcoin.

Various speculations emerged regarding Gensler's decision, with some suggesting he may have voted in alignment with Wall Street interests, anticipating increased investor funds with the expansion of crypto products. Others pointed to a court-ordered review of Grayscale's spot Bitcoin ETF application, indicating that the SEC might have been compelled to approve such ETFs following the court's ruling in favour of Grayscale. The court found the SEC's previous denial of Grayscale's ETF application to be "arbitrary and capricious," suggesting that rejecting a spot Bitcoin ETF afterwards would require different justifications, unrelated to market manipulation and investor protection concerns. Blockchain Association CEO Kristin Smith highlighted the delayed but welcome approval of the ETF, noting that consumer demand for this accessible product had been evident for years.

Canada may also benefit as the US finally gets spot BTC ETF says Coinbase exec

Canada's longstanding presence in the spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) arena is set to undergo subtle shifts, with the recent surge of interest in the U.S. Now equipped with similar opportunities, Canadians, who have had access to spot Bitcoin ETFs since early 2021, may witness changes in their market dynamics. According to Coinbase Canada director Lucas Matheson, Canadian regulators have been lauded for their leadership globally. Spot BTC ETFs have seamlessly integrated into the broader Canadian financial system, finding a place in family office portfolios, tax-advantaged funds, and other mainstream financial products.

The decision by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to greenlight spot BTC ETFs is seen by Matheson as a validation of cryptocurrencies as a legitimate asset class, contributing to the industry's overall credibility. Matheson urges Canadians to seize this moment, encouraging everyone to delve into the world of digital assets as the crypto adoption wave gains momentum. The SEC decision is anticipated to bring benefits to Canadian BTC ETF holders by infusing liquidity into the system. However, Matheson notes that Canadian BTC ETF issuers might face heightened competition from their U.S. counterparts, given the reputation of the U.S. for imposing aggressive fees. Despite potential challenges, Matheson expresses Coinbase's enthusiasm, affirming that crypto is here to stay. Coinbase officially entered the Canadian market in August, following regulatory shifts that led Bybit and Binance to exit the country. Stablecoins posed uncertainties for crypto exchanges due to restrictions imposed by the Canadian Securities Administrators, but the situation was clarified after subsequent rounds of guidance. Local crypto exchanges achieved a milestone, reaching $1 billion in assets under management in December.

Vanguard users threaten to close accounts after firm blocks spot Bitcoin ETFs

Vanguard's decision to refrain from allowing the purchase of spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on its platform has stirred discontent among some users, prompting them to consider closing their accounts. The asset manager cited a misalignment with its traditional offerings and investment philosophy, stating that spot Bitcoin ETFs do not fit their focus on asset classes such as equities, bonds, and cash, deemed essential for a well-balanced, long-term investment portfolio. Vanguard, which did not apply for a spot in Bitcoin ETF in 2023, faces criticism from customers like Tony Spencer, who was informed that the product contradicts Vanguard's investment philosophy, leading him to consider moving his funds to alternative platforms.

This discontent has extended beyond Vanguard, with customers of Citi, Merill Lynch, Edward Jones, and UBS reporting their inability to purchase spot Bitcoin ETFs on these platforms. The Wall Street Journal revealed that UBS is evaluating unsolicited offers from prospective investors but is approaching the matter on a case-by-case basis, emphasizing that the ETF is suitable only for aggressive investors. Additionally, some customers expressed frustration with Merrill Lynch's cautious approach, awaiting efficient trading before deciding to offer Bitcoin products for purchase. Amid this, JPMorgan's brokerage platform stands out as one where spot Bitcoin ETF trading is accessible, facilitated by the bank's status as an authorized participant of BlackRock's iShares Bitcoin Trust ETF. However, JPMorgan has shared risk disclosure with potential investors considering trade orders, emphasizing the nuanced landscape surrounding these financial instruments.

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