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The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has paved the way for bitcoin exchange-traded funds.
On Tuesday, the court sided with Grayscale in a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission which had denied the company’s application to convert the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust to an ETF. The decision could impact other companies that want to create bitcoin ETFs, like BlackRock and Fidelity.
A spot bitcoin ETF lets investors gain exposure to the world’s biggest cryptocurrency without having to custody the actual token. Many crypto bulls believe that approval of a spot bitcoin ETF will lead to more mainstream institutional adoption.
Grayscale Investments, which manages the world’s biggest crypto fund, initiated its lawsuit against the SEC in June 2022 after the agency rejected its application to turn its flagship bitcoin fund, better known by its ticker GBTC, into an ETF. The company decided to pursue the ETF, which would be backed by bitcoin rather than bitcoin derivatives, after the SEC approved ProShares’ futures-based bitcoin ETF in October 2021.
The ruling faced multiple delays but the SEC ultimately rejected the application last summer, citing failure by Grayscale to answer questions related to concerns about market manipulation and investor protections.
A spokeswoman for Grayscale called Tuesday’s ruling “a monumental step forward for American investors, the Bitcoin ecosystem, and all those who have been advocating for Bitcoin exposure through the added protections of the ETF wrapper.”
“The Grayscale team and our legal advisors are actively reviewing the details outlined in the Court’s opinion and will be pursuing next steps with the SEC. We will share more information as soon as practicable,” continued the written statement.
GBTC, which has $16 billion in assets under management as of Tuesday, was the first crypto product investors could trade in their brokerage accounts to get exposure to bitcoin. It was launched in 2013, well before the approval of bitcoin ETFs in Canada or bitcoin futures ETFs in the U.S. Grayscale charges a 2% annual fee to investors, making it a cash cow for parent company Digital Currency Group, led by Barry Silbert.
“It virtually guarantees they will approve BlackRock and Fidelity,” said Dave Weisberger, CEO of CoinRoutes, a platform that provides algorithmic trading and consolidated market data products for digital assets across multiple exchanges and liquidity providers. “Grayscale may need to refile, but they will almost certainly be approved as well.”
Firms have been applying for spot bitcoin ETFs for more than two years, but so far, the SEC has denied more than 30 proposals since 2021 — a 100% rejection rate. But investor sentiment was buoyed in June when BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with some $9 trillion in assets under management, put in an application. The firm has had all but one of its previous 575 ETF applications accepted.
— CNBC’s Jordan Smith contributed to this report.