Gary Gensler acknowledges SEC’s ‘new look’ at Bitcoin ETFs post-Grayscale decision

Gary Gensler, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), commented on pending spot Bitcoin ETF applications on Dec. 14.

When asked by CNBC anchor Sara Eisen about the likelihood of these applications being approved, Gensler responded:

“We have … between eight and a dozen [spot Bitcoin ETF] filings … And as you might know, we had in the past denied a number of these applications, but the courts here in the District of Columbia weighed in on that. And so we’re taking a new look at this based upon those court rulings.”

Eisen noted that the ruling in question concerned Grayscale Investments, which, earlier in 2023, won the right to have the SEC review an application through which it intends to convert its GBTC fund to a spot Bitcoin ETF.

Eisen added that many market participants see the Grayscale ruling as indicating that a spot Bitcoin ETF “might finally happen.” Gensler, however, declined to comment on the likelihood of such an approval, stating today that he is “not to prejudge anything” as chair of the SEC.

In addition to the Grayscale ruling described above, recent meetings between the SEC and several ETF applicants, plus filing amendments from applicants during comment periods, have produced widespread optimism. Bloomberg ETF analysts Eric Balchunas and James Seyffart estimate that there is a 90% chance that the SEC will approve a spot Bitcoin ETF by Jan. 10, 2024.

Gensler warns of noncompliance

Additionally, Gensler emphasized a high degree of noncompliance in the crypto industry, highlighting issues that have been a major concern for regulatory bodies worldwide. He asserted that there is “far too much fraud and bad actors in the crypto field,” noting that this includes non-compliance with securities laws, as well as non-compliance in other areas such as money laundering and public protection.

Gensler noted that his agency has settled or litigated between 150 and 175 cases involving cryptocurrency. Gensler explained the scope of the impact, stating:

“This is a small part of our U.S. Capital markets. But it can undermine confidence when so many people have been hurt … This is something that pervades a lot of this field globally. And it’s hard for the good faith actors even to compete because there [are] so many challenges elsewhere.”

Gensler made similar comments to Bloomberg on Dec. 13. At that time he downplayed the significance of the crypto market amidst introducing new regulations for the larger U.S. Treasuries market on the same day.

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