Hashdex and ARK 21Shares Ether ETF Decisions Postponed by SEC

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has deferred its decision on the approval of Ether exchange-traded funds proposed by Hashdex and ARK 21Shares.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has postponed its decision on approving two Ether exchange-traded funds (ETFs) proposed by Hashdex and ARK 21Shares, extending the timeline for a final verdict to late May.

Meanwhile, several advocacy groups have filed amicus briefs in support of Coinbase's appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the SEC to establish clear regulatory guidelines for the cryptocurrency industry.

SEC Postpones Ether ETF Decision Amid Regulatory Uncertainty

The SEC has delayed its decision regarding the approval of two prominent spot Ether exchange-traded funds (ETFs), proposed by Hashdex and ARK 21Shares. This recent postponement, announced on Tuesday, Mar. 19, came as the regulatory body approached what had been dubbed its "third deadline." With the decision now pushed back, both Ether ETF applications are slated for a final verdict in late May, sparking discussions and speculation within the financial and cryptocurrency sectors about the potential outcomes and their implications.

Analysts Turn Pessimistic on Approval Prospects

The delay has cast a shadow over the optimism that once surrounded the approval chances for the eight Ether ETFs proposed by major financial entities, including BlackRock, Grayscale, Fidelity, Invesco Galaxy, VanEck, Hashdex, and Franklin Templeton. Bloomberg ETF analyst James Seyffart, reflecting the growing skepticism, expressed his dwindling confidence in a Mar. 19 X post. Seyffart highlighted a noticeable lack of engagement between the SEC and ETF issuers as a major concern that has shifted his perspective from cautiously optimistic to decidedly pessimistic regarding the approval of these ETFs.

Eric Balchunas, another prominent Bloomberg ETF analyst, revised his expectations for the Ether ETF approval odds from an initial 50% down to 35%. In a recent interview, Balchunas contrasted the current situation with his experiences during the spot Bitcoin ETF considerations, noting the SEC's lack of communication as a reversal of the previous engagement pattern. This change in the SEC's approach has contributed to a more uncertain outlook for the future of Ether ETFs.

Public Sentiment Reflects Growing Doubts

The broader public's expectations for the approval of Ether ETFs by the end of May have similarly soured. On Polymarket, a decentralized betting platform, the odds of approval have plummeted to 32%, a significant drop from the 77% odds seen in January. This decline in confidence is mirrored by the betting behavior on Polymarket, where around $2.2 million has been wagered on the fate of these ETF applications, highlighting the high level of interest and the financial stakes involved in the SEC's impending decisions.

Grayscale Explores ETH Staking in ETF Proposal

Amid the regulatory uncertainty and shifting sentiment, Grayscale has taken steps to differentiate its spot Ether ETF proposal by considering the addition of staking capabilities. In a move that could potentially enhance the attractiveness of its ETF offering, Grayscale outlined four proposals in a consent solicitation statement to investors of its Grayscale Ethereum Trust. The most notable of these proposals is the integration of a mechanism to leverage Ethereum held by the trust in proof-of-stake validation protocols. This strategic addition aims to mitigate the inflationary pressures associated with Ethereum's proof-of-stake protocol and ensure that Grayscale's offering remains competitive with similar investment products that offer staking benefits.

As the SEC's final decision dates draw near, with ARK 21Shares set for May 24 and Hashdex awaiting a verdict by May 30, the financial and cryptocurrency communities are closely monitoring developments. The outcomes of these decisions could have significant implications for the landscape of cryptocurrency investments in the United States, influencing not only the future of Ethere ETFs but also the regulatory environment for cryptocurrency-related investment products more broadly. With analysts turning more pessimistic and public sentiment reflecting growing doubts, the next few months promise to be a critical period for the cryptocurrency sector and its interaction with regulatory authorities.

Advocacy Groups Rally for Clear Crypto Regulations in Support of Coinbase Appeal

In a concerted effort to push for regulatory clarity within the burgeoning cryptocurrency industry, several advocacy groups have rallied behind Coinbase in its ongoing legal battle with the United States SEC. These organizations, representing a broad swath of the crypto ecosystem and business community, have filed amicus briefs with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, advocating for the necessity of clear, actionable guidelines for market participants.

The Call for Clarity

The filings, made on Mar. 18, saw participation from entities such as the Crypto Council for Innovation (CCI), Satoshi Action Fund, Texas Blockchain Council, investment firm Paradigm, digital asset company Lejilex, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A central theme among the submissions is the critique of the SEC's current approach to cryptocurrency regulation—or the lack thereof. These groups argue that the absence of defined rules not only stifles innovation but also could precipitate a brain drain of digital asset companies from the United States to jurisdictions with more transparent regulatory frameworks.

A joint statement from the Satoshi Action Fund and Texas Blockchain Council encapsulated the sentiment shared among the amici, highlighting the "uncertainty and paralysis" engendered by the SEC's stance. They stressed the importance of having "clear rules, with adequate notice rooted in congressional authority," especially when the regulatory body threatens to impose "adverse consequences" and "liability" for actions taken under the presumption of compliance with SEC directives.

Background of the Coinbase Appeal

The amicus briefs were filed in support of a Coinbase appeal that originated from a petition the crypto exchange submitted in July 2022. Coinbase's petition requested that the SEC clarify its position on which tokens should be considered securities and, by extension, subject to the commission's oversight. The SEC's denial of this petition in December 2023, which came on the heels of an enforcement action against Coinbase for alleged securities law violations, has been a flashpoint in the ongoing debate over crypto regulation in the U.S.

The Crypto Council for Innovation voiced its concern in its brief, criticizing the SEC for undermining principles of fairness, eroding confidence in domestic markets, and ultimately harming both consumers and innovators. This sentiment is echoed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which lambasted the SEC for its reluctance to adapt its regulatory framework to accommodate new technological advancements, describing it as a "case study in the dangers of refusing to adapt regulation to new circumstances."

Legal and Regulatory Landscape

The appeal and accompanying amicus briefs come at a tumultuous time for the SEC and its interactions with the crypto industry. The commission has launched enforcement actions against several prominent crypto firms, including Binance, Kraken, and Ripple, in addition to Coinbase. A recent ruling on Mar. 18, in which a U.S. district court imposed sanctions on the SEC for acting in "bad faith" in its lawsuit against Debt Box, has only amplified concerns regarding the SEC's approach to regulating the crypto space.

As the Third Circuit Court of Appeals deliberates on the Coinbase case, the crypto industry and its advocates await a decision that could have far-reaching implications for the future of digital asset regulation in the United States. The outcome not only holds the potential to shape the SEC's regulatory stance but also to influence the global competitiveness of the U.S. as a hub for innovation in the digital economy. The call for clear, consistent, and fair regulatory guidelines has never been louder, reflecting a pivotal moment in the ongoing dialogue between the crypto industry and its regulators.