Gary Gensler issues warning on crypto ahead of potential spot Bitcoin ETF approval

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United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair Gary Gensler posted a thread on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) as many asset managers await the final word on approval or denial of their spot Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund applications. 

In a Jan. 8 X post, Gensler called on crypto investors to keep some things in mind without specifically mentioning a spot Bitcoin ETF. According to the SEC chair, asset managers “may not be complying” with federal securities laws by offering crypto investment vehicles, and crypto “can be exceptionally risky” and “often volatile.”

“Fraudsters continue to exploit the rising popularity of crypto assets to lure retail investors into scams,” said Gensler. “These investments continue to be replete w/ fraud- bogus coin offerings, Ponzi & pyramid schemes, & outright theft where a project promoter disappears w/ investors’ money.”

The SEC chair’s remarks at 3:40 pm UTC came roughly two hours after several spot Bitcoin ETF issuers filed amended S-1 applications with the commission — one of the last moves toward potentially approving the investment vehicle in the United States. Though it’s uncertain at the time of publication whether the SEC will approve one or many at the same time, applications are in for Valkyrie, WisdomTree, BlackRock, VanEck, Invesco and Galaxy, Grayscale, ARK Invest and 21Shares, Fidelity, Bitwise and Franklin Templeton.

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Many have criticized Gensler for the SEC not approving a spot crypto ETF despite years’ worth of applications from numerous asset managers. Regulators in Canada allowed firms to list spot Bitcoin ETFs on exchanges starting in 2021.

The S-1 filings on Jan. 8 were expected — part of a deadline from the SEC following many 19b-4 filings on Jan. 5. While both suggested a forward move for the SEC allowing crypto ETF listings on U.S. exchanges, they do not guarantee approval.

The commission still has the option of denying applications, but it would likely need to do so for different reasons than it previously used for other ETFs. In August, a federal judge ordered the SEC to revisit a spot BTC ETF application from Grayscale, claiming the commission was “arbitrary and capricious” in denying the investment vehicle.

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