Crypto Lawsuit: Grayscale Bitcoin Trust vs SEC
Why Does the SEC Continually Reject Crypto ETF Applications?
There's a big deal lawsuit going on right now against the SEC. And we need to give you a little bit of back story because this could have a big implication for you. It's involving Grayscale and the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust. GBTC is the stock symbol. Grayscale is one of the largest investors in the crypto space. The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust is $30 billion or so in value, the largest single investment of Bitcoin in the world and it is owned by millions of American investors.
Grayscale is one of the largest and oldest players in the crypto community, and the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust is one of the most popular. In fact, I think it is the largest (and that would make it the most popular) bitcoin investment in the country. The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, because of the way it operates, is legally considered a grantor trust, which is fancy language you don't need to be concerned with. But what it means is it trades over-the-counter in the OTC marketplace. You can buy GBTC through your brokerage account. And because of that, you're not buying and selling shares between you and Grayscale. You're buying and selling shares with other investors who happen to own the GBTC investment, which means the price of the fund might be different from the price of the Bitcoin that's inside the fund.
GBTC Is Currently Trading at a Steep Discount
In fact, right now GBTC shares are trading for about a 35% or 40% discount to their actual value. In other words, you're able to buy a dollar's worth of Bitcoin for $0.60. Well, that sounds like a heck of a bargain, doesn't it? The problem is that that discount might get even lower. Instead of being worth $0.60 on the dollar, it might fall to $0.50 on the dollar. And you never really know if that $0.60 is going to go back up to the full dollar to provide yourself full value.
This creates a challenge for investors. Grayscale isn't any happier about this. Its investors are, and they have come up with a solution: convert the Grayscale Bitcoin trust to an ETF. Because ETFs always trade for full value. In other words, if that fund is trading for $0.60 on the dollar and they convert it to an ETF, it'll instantly trade a dollar to a dollar. In other words, those investors will have an immediate increase in the value of their asset. And by being an ETF, it'll be an awful lot cheaper. It'll also be more transparent and much more familiar to investors because ETFs are the most popular investment vehicle in the country. It'll allow financial advisors across the nation to engage in crypto because ETFs are readily available from financial advisors everywhere.
And so, for this reason, Grayscale filed an application to the SEC asking for permission to convert the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into an ETF format. And the SEC has said no. In fact, it's not just that Grayscale asked once and that the SEC said no once. Grayscale has filed this application repeatedly and the SEC has said no repeatedly. Grayscale has finally gotten fed up and has now filed a lawsuit against the SEC. They are arguing that the SEC is acting capriciously and in violation of its own administrative procedures, that there's no legitimate basis for saying no to a Bitcoin ETF. I mean, think about it. The SEC has already said yes to a Bitcoin futures ETF. They've actually said yes to a short Bitcoin futures ETF, which means you can actually buy an ETF that bets against the price of Bitcoin. And those Bitcoin futures ETFs are based on an underlying security, which is the same as what Grayscale wants their ETF to be.
When Will the SEC Approve a Spot Bitcoin ETF?
So, the argument goes if the SEC is willing to say yes to a futures ETF, why aren't they willing to say yes to the actual ETF? It's got a lot of folks scratching their heads around the country. And we're going to now wait to see how this lawsuit progresses. My view? The SEC's refusal to approve any of the dozens of applications, not just from Grayscale, but also from Bitwise and many other companies, all requesting permission to offer a Bitcoin ETF. The SEC over the past several years has consistently rejected every one of these applications.
My view? The SEC is causing great harm to investors through its activity. By rejecting these applications, they have not quelled investor interest in this new asset class. The SEC is merely driven investors into alternative investment products that are more expensive, less liquid, and riskier. What the SEC has done is very similar to Prohibition back in the 1930s. That law didn't stop drinking. It just made drinking more expensive and more dangerous. You had to go into a speakeasy where you bought rotgut, which could have gotten you sick, which was a lot more expensive to buy. That's where we are right now without a Bitcoin ETF. Three quarters of financial advisors who would otherwise recommend Bitcoin to clients, well, they're on the sidelines because without a Bitcoin ETF, they don't have a way to recommend it to clients. And this is forcing investors to go to other resources. 'My advisor can't help me, so I have to go somewhere else on my own.' And the result, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is that tens of thousands of investors lost $1 billion last year to crypto frauds and scams.
Hero vs Obstructionist: What Role Will the SEC Play?
A lot of that could have been avoided if those investors were able to rely on their financial advisors for help. And I place the blame for all of those losses squarely at the SEC's feet. With crypto prices so low right now compared to nine months ago, this is the perfect time for the SEC to approve these applications. Investors are more interested than ever in crypto, as are advisors and the current opportunity to buy low. That's as strong an argument for approval as it is for buying stocks right now.
Grayscale says approval of their application would unlock $8 billion of value for holders of GBTC because it's currently trading at that big discount, which would instantly disappear at discounts worth $1 billion. This would go far to eradicating the losses that many people have experienced in their Bitcoin investments. This would give the SEC an opportunity to be a hero to American investors rather than an obstructionist.
The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an editorial blasting Gary Gensler, the Chair of the SEC, in a headline they called Gary Gensler's Bitcoin Land Grab. The Wall Street Journal said, "Gary Gensler is taking investors hostage", saying, "The SEC has arbitrarily established a higher standard for approving a Bitcoin ETF for other investments, but hasn't explained why or how companies are supposed to meet that standard". The Wall Street Journal calls the SEC's behavior bewildering and says Gensler's blockade is counterproductive if his aim is to protect investors. I couldn't agree more, and I'll keep you posted on how this lawsuit plays out.