To Harpoon or Not to Harpoon? The SEC’s Bitcoin ETF Dilemma

Bitcoin ETF

The approval of a spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) has become the elusive white whale for cryptocurrency investors and companies in the United States. A spot bitcoin ETF would allow mainstream investors to gain exposure to bitcoin through regulated traditional stock market channels like 401ks and IRAs. But this holy grail has remained out of grasp so far, despite numerous attempts to harpoon it.

Why Does the Industry Want a Spot Bitcoin ETF?

A spot bitcoin ETF offers several benefits over directly buying bitcoin from a cryptocurrency exchange:

  • Easier access for stock market investors without needing to custody bitcoin
  • Liquidity, transparency and oversight from SEC regulation
  • Reduced volatility and risks compared to holding the cryptocurrency directly
  • Ability to gain exposure using regular investment accounts like 401ks and IRAs

A spot bitcoin ETF would allow billions in capital to flow into bitcoin from institutional investors typically unable or unwilling to access cryptocurrency markets directly.

Roadblocks on the Route to SEC Approval

The SEC, however, has steadfastly rejected applications for spot bitcoin ETFs from several major cryptocurrency companies and financial institutions. The SEC cites various reasons for its rejections:

  • Concerns around insufficient liquidity and transparency in bitcoin markets
  • Worries about fraud and manipulation that could affect ETF pricing
  • Bitcoin’s extreme volatility relative to traditional securities
  • Lack of clear cryptocurrency regulations and protections

The SEC has only approved bitcoin futures ETFs so far, which do not invest directly in bitcoin. Futures ETFs allow exposure to bitcoin’s price movements but come with added risks and costs.

Also read: BlackRock’s Spot Bitcoin ETF Listed on DTCC, Signaling Potential Approval

The Path Forward

Despite past rejections, cryptocurrency firms continue lobbying the SEC to approve a spot bitcoin ETF. Some hope a new SEC chair under the Biden administration could shift thinking. Others expect evolving attitudes as the crypto industry matures with more oversight and reliable pricing benchmarks.

When bitcoin ETFs finally get SEC approval, it promises to spur the next wave of mainstream cryptocurrency adoption by allowing easy access through traditional stock market channels. For now, the white whale continues to elude determined captains in the vast regulatory sea. But the chase continues on with hope of eventual success.


A spot bitcoin ETF remains the holy grail for cryptocurrency investors eagerly awaiting SEC approval. When allowed, these ETFs should radically expand mainstream access and capital inflows for bitcoin. However, regulatory concerns around volatility, manipulation and investor protections continue to delay spot bitcoin ETFs in the US. Nevertheless, persistence from cryptocurrency firms means approval could happen when proposed structures allay SEC concerns – but the wait continues in this ongoing saga.

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