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The SEC Is Reviewing the Bitwise Bitcoin ETF Rejection

Nikhilesh De

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is taking a second look at the rejection of a recent bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposal.

Overturning the rejection would clear the way for potentially the first bitcoin ETF in the U.S., following years of anticipation of a mainstream-ready investment product.

According to a notice published in the Federal Register over the weekend and dated Nov. 18, the SEC’s five commissioners will review the bitcoin ETF put forth by Bitwise Asset Management.

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Bitwise did not request the review, said Matt Hougan, the company’s global head of research.

“We do, however, welcome the opportunity to submit comments and continue the dialogue with the SEC,” he said in an email.

The rejection was written by the agency’s Division of Trading and Markets on Oct. 9. The Nov. 18 notice actually references a letter from the SEC’s commissioners dated Oct. 15.

It is not clear what triggered the SEC’s review. Under current federal law, the commissioners can grant a review at their discretion, or following the filing of a petition.

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The order rejecting the proposal will remain in effect until the review has concluded, the notice said, with the commissioners either upholding the staff rejection or overturning it. As part of the review, the general public can comment on the rejection through Dec. 18, 2019.

Groundhog day

Unlike the SEC’s formal approval or disapproval process, there are no set deadlines for the review of a decision. The Commission has previously reviewed the rejection of a bitcoin ETF proposal filed by the family office of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, ultimately upholding the decision after more than a year.

It is possible that an SEC commissioner may have called for the Bitwise review.

Famously, Commissioner Hester Peirce – dubbed “Crypto Mom” by the community – announced the review of nine rejected bitcoin ETF applications in 2018. Peirce also dissented from the SEC’s second rejection of the Winklevoss ETF.

The ETF applications, filed in late 2017 and early 2018 by GraniteShares, ProShares and Direxion, were rejected in August 2018, with Peirce announcing their review the next day. However, it remains unclear what the status of this review is, or whether any of these decisions will be overturned.

Neither Peirce nor an SEC spokesperson immediately responded to emailed requests for comment. ProShares declined to comment, and a request for comment to Direxion was not returned by press time.

GraniteShares CEO Will Rhind told CoinDesk in a phone call that nothing had come of the SEC’s review so far, and he did not expect this to change in the near future.

“I think [SEC Chairman Jay Clayton] has spoken publicly about the ETF applications and … he’s made it clear at least from the top that the market has to mature a little bit before there’ll be an approval,” he said.

Matthew Hougan image by Joe Jenkins for CoinDesk

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