How to assess the SEC’s potential rejection of spot Bitcoin ETFs: news could destabilize the crypto sector



The search for an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) on spot Bitcoin has been an ongoing saga, marked by anticipation, speculation, news and regulatory hurdles.

Recently, former SEC chief John Reed Stark took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the possibility of the SEC approving applications for spot Bitcoin ETFs. 

Referring to the analysis presented by Better Markets experts in the SEC Comment Letters of 8 August 2023, Stark unveiled a nuanced perspective that sheds light on the complex factors that could influence the decision in a negative way.

Recent news and Better Markets analysis highlight the possibility that the SEC will not approve the Bitcoin ETF

The analysis by Better Markets, cited by John Reed Stark, highlights several critical issues related to the SEC’s approval of spot Bitcoin ETFs. 

This perspective serves as the basis for Stark’s assertion that the current SEC may not be inclined to approve these applications. 

Although the cryptocurrency community has been eagerly awaiting the introduction of these investment vehicles, Stark’s insights warn that these aspirations may be met with reluctance by regulators.

Changing regulatory landscape

Stark’s views center on the possibility of significant regulatory change in the cryptocurrency landscape after the upcoming elections. 

The former SEC chief suggests that policy changes could shape the SEC’s approach to spot Bitcoin ETFs

To support this argument, Stark draws attention to past instances in which prominent political figures from different ideological backgrounds have expressed concern about the potential risks posed by cryptocurrencies. 

Personalities such as former President Donald Trump, former Secretary Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Maxine Waters have all raised concerns about the implications of widespread cryptocurrency adoption.

Delving further into the issue, Stark points out that the SEC’s initial scrutiny of the cryptocurrency space took hold during the tenure of Jay Clayton, a Republican-appointed SEC chairman. 

This historical context underscores the SEC’s cautious approach to digital assets. 

During Clayton’s time as SEC chairman, the agency grappled with defining the regulatory status of cryptocurrencies and the complexities of integrating them into the financial system.

Stark’s comments come on the heels of the decision by the US Securities and Exchange Commission to extend the review period for Ark Invest’s spot Bitcoin ETF application. 

This extension indicates that the SEC is looking closely at the proposal, likely because of Bitcoin’s new nature and the potential implications of a cryptocurrency-related ETF

Stark’s view on this topic serves as a reminder that the SEC’s decision will not only shape the trajectory of Bitcoin ETFs, but will also provide guidance on the regulatory environment for digital assets as a whole.

Breaking news: key considerations in analysis for the SEC’s approval of the Bitcoin ETF

To understand Stark’s position, it is imperative to delve into the key considerations highlighted in BetterMarkets’ analysis:

Market Manipulation: A major concern is the susceptibility of the Bitcoin market to manipulation. 

The decentralized and relatively nascent nature of the cryptocurrency market makes it vulnerable to price manipulation, a factor that can have far-reaching consequences for ETF investors.

Liquidity: The liquidity of the Bitcoin market is another pressing issue. ETFs require a certain level of liquidity to function effectively, allowing investors to buy and sell shares without significant price discrepancies. 

The inherent volatility and potential illiquidity of the Bitcoin market could hinder the smooth operation of a spot Bitcoin ETF.

Custody Solutions: Secure custody solutions for cryptocurrencies are a persistent challenge. Without robust custody mechanisms, the risk of hacking and theft increases, putting the assets held by the ETF at risk.

Regulatory oversight: The changing regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies adds complexity to ETF approvals. Regulatory uncertainty, combined with the potential for tough regulatory measures, may deter the SEC from granting approval without careful consideration.

Maturity of the market: The relative young age of the cryptocurrency market is a factor for the SEC to assess. Traditional markets have matured over decades, developing established structures that ensure investor protection and market integrity. The question arises whether the cryptocurrency market has reached a level of maturity that can support a regulated ETF.


John Reed Stark’s insights into the current SEC’s potential reluctance to approve spot ETFs on Bitcoin shed light on the intricate web of factors that regulators must consider when evaluating such applications. 

The analysis by BetterMarkets provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the challenges posed by the cryptocurrency market, ranging from market manipulation issues to the complexities of custodial solutions. 

Ark Invest’s extended application review period exemplifies the meticulous approach the SEC is taking, reflecting the broader implications of ETF approval on the cryptocurrency landscape. 

While the cryptocurrency community waits with anticipation, Stark’s remarks serve as a reminder that the road to a spot ETF on Bitcoin is paved with complex considerations that transcend technological innovation and extend into the realm of regulatory responsibility.