This past week proved once again that it’s tough to be a bitcoin fan.
In another blow to bitcoin legitimacy, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has denied the second bitcoin-based ETF bid up for consideration in the month of March — the Intercontinental Exchange, Inc.’s NYSE Arca exchange’s request to list and trade the SolidX Bitcoin Trust.
For a second time, it was the lack of oversight, regulation and the potential for fraud in the broader bitcoin space that worked against the proposed ETF.
In its latest ruling, the SEC mirrored the language used in its previous denial, once again referring to Section 6(b)(5) of the Exchange Act, which “requires, among other things, that the rules of a national securities exchange be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices and to protect investors and the public interest.”
If there’s any irony in this situation, it’s that this time the price of bitcoin didn’t take much of a hit.
Sure, bitcoin dropped from a day high in the $1,060s to about $1,011 in the hours after the news broke on March 28 — but that’s still a significant gain over lows in the 800s just a few days before (March 25) as fears of a hard fork spread among investors.
Seems many weren’t banking on the SolidX Bitcoin Trust as they were with the Winklevoss play. Because let’s face it — the news wasn’t exactly unexpected. Still, the SEC’s repeated calls for regulation and oversight are sobering given other developments brewing in the bitcoin space.
Hard fork, anyone?
Concern among investors has grown amid signs of an impending split in the bitcoin space. While the debate stems from differing ideologies on block size, the controversy calls into question the ability of a digital currency without a central authority to update and innovate itself in any meaningful way.
If competing factions can’t come to an agreement on block size, how will the broader ecosystem be able to put systems in place to meet the SEC’s requirements, or, for that matter, make any major changes?
Given the market reaction to the second SEC denial, it appears that if technical in-fighting over block size can be kept to a minimum (we’ll see about that), the $1,000 milestone might actually remain a viable long-term benchmark value. Well, as long-term as bitcoin value can be.
The SEC still sits on one remaining bitcoin ETF proposal filed by Grayscale Investments LLC back in January, seeking to launch with some $500 million. Given the outcomes for the prior two, things look grim for the viability of their Bitcoin Investment Trust.
At the time of writing, one bitcoin was worth $1,023.68, down 1.61 percent from Wednesday’s (March 29) close. The estimated market cap is at just over $16.6 billion.
Even with the recent internal strife and a price chart that could make even the most hardened of sailors seasick, investors haven’t been scared away from putting faith (and capital) into the broader digital currency ecosystem.
Earlier this week, digital currency exchange startup ShapeShift announced the close a $10.4 million Series A venture funding round led by Berlin-based Earlybird Venture Capital. The Series A included participation from Lakestar and Blockchain Capital, among others.
Founded in August 2014, ShapeShift’s platform allows users, without signups or logins, the ability to exchange any of the 35 digital currencies it supports — including bitcoin, Zcash, ether and dash — for any other.
“What we saw when we started was that tokens were going to become a widespread phenomenon,” founder and CEO Erik Voorhees told CoinDesk. “We believed there would be blockchain tokens representing all sorts of value beyond currency, and that’s become increasingly true, which is why ShapeShift’s frictionless exchange is important.”
Shapeshift will reportedly use the Series A funds to grow its engineering team — an important move to support two new exchange-related products coming to market later in 2017 as well as to handle transaction volume growth.
In the past three years, ShapeShift has reportedly averaged 48 percent growth month on month with a monthly trade volume near 50,000 BTC ($51.2 million) across the currencies and assets its platform supports.