SEC punts on VanEck bitcoin ETF decision until November 14

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has extended its consideration of VanEck's Bitcoin exchange-traded fund application a final time.

The U.S. securities regulator posted an extension notice on Wednesday, saying it intends to take an additional 60 days to review the proposed rule change. Now, hopefuls can expect an answer on November 14, 2021, as the notice names that day "as the date by which the Commission shall either approve or disapprove the proposed rule change."

Cboe BZX Exchange first filed a 19b-4 to list VanEck's Bitcoin Trust on March 1 of this year, starting the clock on an SEC decision. The agency has continually kicked the proverbial can on a final ruling with previous extensions and a notice soliciting additional comments on the proposal.

The Commission can take up to 180 days from the publication date of the filing to decide, which would put decision day at September 15. However, regulators are permitted to take an additional 60 days if it's deemed "appropriate" and publish their reasoning. 

"The Commission finds that it is appropriate to designate a longer period within which to issue an order approving or disapproving the proposed rule change so that it has sufficient time to consider the proposed rule change and the issues raised in the comment letters that have been submitted in connection therewith," said the notice.

The VanEck offering is the furthest along in the application cycle, meaning it will likely be the first to receive a decision amid the current wave of Bitcoin ETF applications. Issuers previously reached an impasse with the SEC when the Commission rejected the last remaining applications before it, in 2019. 

Since then, Canada has approved a number of bitcoin and ether-based ETFs, leading some to believe that an approval could be on the horizon. Other issuers put in applications, including Valkyrie, Fidelity, WisdomTree, Kryptoin and Skybridge among others.

Still, SEC chair Gary Gensler has said that the SEC is more likely to approve a product tied to bitcoin futures before approving one tied to the asset itself. Firms like Galaxy and Valkyrie are betting that's the case, since both have filed for ETFs tied to bitcoin futures.