US SEC approves exchange applications to list spot ether ETFs

By Thomson Reuters May 23, 2024 | 4:29 PM

By Hannah Lang and Suzanne McGee

(Reuters) -The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday approved applications from Nasdaq, CBOE and NYSE to list exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tied to the price of ether, potentially paving the way for the products to begin trading later this year.

While the ETF issuers also have to get the green light before the products can launch, Thursday’s approval is a major surprise win for those firms and the cryptocurrency industry, which until Monday had expected the SEC to reject the filings.

Nine issuers including VanEck, ARK Investments/21Shares and BlackRock hope to launch ETFs tied to the second-largest cryptocurrency after the SEC in January approved bitcoin ETFs in a watershed moment for the cryptocurrency industry.

Thursday was the deadline for the SEC to decide on VanEck’s filing. Market participants were bracing for the thumbs down because the SEC had not engaged with them on the applications.

But in a surprise move, SEC officials on Monday asked the exchanges to quickly fine-tune the filings, sending the industry scrambling to complete weeks of work in just days, sources said.

Reuters could not ascertain why the SEC appeared to have a change of heart. The exchanges did not immediately provide comment.

When asked about the ether ETFs by reporters at an industry event earlier on Thursday, SEC Chair Gary Gensler – a crypto skeptic – declined to comment. An SEC spokesperson said in an email announcing the approval that the agency would not comment further.

The exchange applications seek SEC approval for a rule change required to list new products, but the issuers still need the SEC to approve ETF registration statements detailing investor disclosures before they can start trading.

Unlike the exchange filings, there is no set time frame in which the SEC has to decide on those statements. Industry participants said it was unclear how long that would take.

The SEC rejected spot bitcoin ETFs for more than a decade over market manipulation worries but was forced to approve them after Grayscale Investments won a court challenge last year.

(Reporting by Hannah Lang in New York and Suzanne McGee; additional reporting by Douglas Gillison; Editing by Michelle Price and Leslie Adler)