Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF Will Likely Pass Federal Scrutiny, Eventually, Experts Say

  @MeaganKaym.clark@ibtimes.com on July 11 2014 4:26 PM
  • Bitcoin logo, digital cryptocurrency accepted by pro sports teams and  satellite networks
    The digital currency bitcoin is finding favor with more sports teams and TV providers. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
  • Bitcoin Mock-ups
    Mock bitcoins are displayed on a table in a photoillustration taken in Berlin on Jan. 7, 2014. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski
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The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust is likely to pass federal scrutiny and become the first digital currency-based exchange traded fund (ETF), maybe before the end of the year, although no one knows for sure, according to ETF analysts.  

“I don’t see very much in the way of impediments to it at this point,” Dave Nadig, chief investment officer of ETF.com, said. “Everything I see in the Bitcoin filing is by the book, so it would be a surprise if they officially deny it. If they pocket veto it and kind of ignore it for a while … that’s a possibility.”

Bitcoin is a digital currency that was created in 2009. It functions as an independent peer-to-peer payment system, with no central authority, banks or government backing. Twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Internet entrepreneurs and Harvard acquaintances of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, said last year they owned nearly 1 percent of all Bitcoin in existence at the time.

The Bitcoin ETF would likely appeal to investors who are interested in the currency but who see owning Bitcoin directly as too much trouble. Potential investors will also be watching to see whether the SEC follows the standard set by the IRS and classifies Bitcoin as property or a commodity, similar to gold, or as a currency.

“If the Bitcoin ETF is classified as a commodity ETF, the rate of tax they’ll be paying will be much higher than if they bought a currency ETF,” Todd Shriber, ETFtrends' Web editor, said. 

The Winklevoss brothers filed paperwork for the Bitcoin trust fund with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a little over a year ago. In February, the twins launched their version of a Bitcoin price tracker, called “Winkdex,” and earlier this week, they revealed in an updated SEC filing that the ETF’s ticker symbol will be COIN on the Nasdaq exchange.

“I would feel strongly it’s going to happen, but it may not be as soon as people would hope,” Tom Lydon, president of Global Trends Investments and editor of ETFtrends.com, said. “I wouldn’t imagine they would continue talking about it and be making progress if in fact it would not come to fruition.”

Lydon, who has spoken with the Winklevoss twins, says their biggest challenge if they bring the ETF to market will be educating potential investors about Bitcoin, but “they’re pretty good at explaining what Bitcoin is,” he said.

Only one-third of respondents in a nationwide survey from March said they are even somewhat familiar with Bitcoin, according to the Polling Institute at Saint Leo University in Florida.

Another Bitcoin fund, dubbed the Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment Fund, or GABI, will be launched on Aug. 1 from a tiny offshore tax shelter, an island near France. 

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