Delays mount: SEC defers ruling on BlackRock, Fidelity bitcoin ETFs

The list of bitcoin ETF applications the US Securities and Exchange Commission isn’t yet ready to rule on is growing — with BlackRock, Fidelity, Bitwise and VanEck delayed on Thursday. 

The desire of the SEC for more time became a trend, as those extensions followed delayed decisions on similar proposals by WisdomTree, Valkyrie and Invesco.

Similar to the previous delays, the SEC said in the latest batch of filings that the extension was so “it has sufficient time to consider the proposed rule change and the issues raised therein.”

The regulator now has at least another 45 days to address the proposals, pushing the new deadlines to mid-October. The SEC could then approve, deny or again delay its decisions. 

It has 240 days in total — from mid-July, when it published the four proposals in the federal register — to rule on the planned products. That puts the SEC’s final deadline to allow them to begin trading, or block them from doing so, in March 2024.  

BlackRock, which has more than $9 trillion assets under management, garnered headlines when it filed for its iShares Bitcoin Trust in June. The firm’s plans prompted re-filings from other companies that had previously sought to launch such a product.

Fellow financial services giant Fidelity was among them, re-filing for its Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust later that month. The firm first applied for a bitcoin ETF in 2021 — a proposal blocked by the SEC in January 2022. 

Though fund issuers have applied to launch spot bitcoin ETFs as early as 2013, the SEC has never allowed them to move forward. 

It delayed its ruling on a similar planned fund by Ark Invest and 21Shares last month, saying in a filing at the time it would “institute proceedings,” and requesting public comments. The 240-day clock for the SEC to rule on that product proposal runs out on Jan. 10, 2024. 

The SEC’s decision to delay comes just days after a court granted Grayscale Investments’ petition to have the SEC re-examine its application to convert its Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) to an ETF.

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