Ferrum CTO warns against concluding ETH’s non-security status

Ever since the launch of Bitcoin ETFs in January, the crypto industry has been eagerly waiting for the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s nod regarding Ethereum. Finally, in May, as all hopes were fading, the commission decided to approve the 19b-4 forms for spot Ether ETFs.

According to Taha Abbasi, CTO at Ferrum Labs, the decision is pivotal and is expected to be another step towards mass adoption.

“It proves to the world that L1 and related assets are indeed functioning as intended and are now recognized by governing authorities as well,” Abbasi told crypto.news. 

The sudden but highly anticipated move has sparked a lot of questions regarding how the regulators view the second-largest cryptocurrency. Is it no longer a security? Is it a commodity?

Ether ETFs have been classified under the Securities Act of 1933 rather than the more restrictive Investment Company Act of 1940.

The Investment Company Act of 1940 applies to entities that are primarily engaged in the business of investing, reinvesting, and trading in securities. It imposes stricter regulations on the operations, management, and structure of investment companies.

If classified under this act, it would imply that ETH is considered a security, subjecting it to more rigorous regulatory oversight and potentially imposing additional operational constraints on the ETFs.

Contrarily, the Securities Act of 1933 focuses on ensuring that securities offered to the public are registered and that investors receive sufficient information about the securities being offered. For ETH, this means that the ETFs must disclose detailed information about their holdings and operations.

According to Abbasi, this decision does not provide a definitive answer. Rather, it implies a more balanced regulatory environment that acknowledges the unique nature of digital assets.

Abbasi warned against jumping to conclusions, stressing that the recent approval concerns the ETP product and its “compliance with regulatory requirements for securities offerings” rather than providing a clear classification of ETH itself.

“The impact of the ongoing debate about ETH being a security will likely hinge on future regulatory actions and interpretations, but this move signals a cautious yet progressive step toward integrating digital assets into traditional financial markets,” he added.

Further, he urged market participants to interpret the SEC’s cautious approach as an indication of ongoing regulatory uncertainty. 

He believes SEC Chairman Gary Gensler’s constant refusal to clarify ETH’s classification is “a strategic approach by the SEC to retain flexibility and control” over the cryptocurrency sector.

“Participants should remain vigilant, comply with existing regulations, and stay updated on any regulatory developments,” Abbasi advised.

Another key point to the recent approval was the inability to stake ETH within these ETFs. The SEC views staking as an illegal offering by cryptocurrency platforms. The securities watchdog has also taken action against big names like Coinbase and Kraken for their staking services.

Several ETF issuers have amended their filings in response to this.

Abassi believes the lack of staking could directly impact the attractiveness of Ether ETFs. He acknowledged the “unique benefits” offered via staking, adding that taking it out of the equation would lead to “potential opportunity costs and competitive disadvantages.”

“The impact on returns and market dynamics will depend on how well issuers address these challenges and position their products in the market.”

However, he noted that by targeting specific investor segments and effectively communicating the strengths of their products, ETP issuers could still “attract a substantial investor base.”

As of now the commission is yet to approve the S-1 registrations for the ETF filings.  

This process is known for its complexity and the meticulous scrutiny it requires regarding investor protection, market maturity, and regulatory clarity. 

Bloomberg’s Eric Balchunas expects a June launch for the ETF product. Abbasi, however, speculated that a “realistic” estimate could be  “6 to 18 months” before we see Ether ETFs trading on exchanges.

“Market participants should stay informed about regulatory developments and engage in the public comment process to influence the outcome positively,” he concluded.

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