SEC warns of Bitcoin futures risks in mutual funds

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, has issued an investor warning pointing out risks of mutual funds that have exposure to Bitcoin (BTC) futures.

In an official statement on Tuesday, the SEC strongly encouraged investors to thoroughly consider risks disclosure of a mutual fund on the Bitcoin futures market, stressing that Bitcoin is a “highly speculative investment.” The authority emphasized that investors should take into account the volatility of both Bitcoin and the Bitcoin futures market, as well as the lack of regulation and potential fraud or manipulation in the underlying Bitcoin market.

“As with any fund investment, investors should focus on the level of risk they are taking on, and the level of risk they are comfortable taking on, prior to making an investment,” the SEC wrote.

The regulator noted that the Bitcoin futures market has significantly expanded after the first Bitcoin futures started trading in December 2017, with increased trading volumes and open-interest positions. The SEC further stated that it will closely monitor and assess Bitcoin futures-exposed mutual funds’ compliance with the Investment Company Act and federal securities laws. “Investor protection and assessing the ongoing compliance of these funds is a top priority for the staff,” the authority stated.

Additionally, the SEC will also pay close attention to the impact of mutual funds’ investments in Bitcoin futures on investor protection, capital formation, and the fairness and efficiency of markets.

As part of this, the SEC will also consider whether the Bitcoin futures market could accommodate an exchange traded fund, or ETF. Unlike mutual funds, ETFs “cannot prevent additional investor assets from coming into the ETF if the ETF becomes too large or dominant in the market, or if the liquidity in the market starts to wane,” the SEC said.

The news comes weeks after the SEC delayed its decision on approving the VanEck Bitcoin ETF until June. As previously reported, some industry observers believe that the U.S. could finally see a Bitcoin ETF in 2021 thanks to the Senate’s confirmation of Gary Gensler as SEC chair.

Despite the U.S. government still deciding on whether to approve a Bitcoin ETF, some countries around the world have already approved or launched Bitcoin ETF trading, with 3iQ and CoinShares’ Bitcoin ETF going live on Toronto Stock Exchange last month. Other fund managers like Purpose Investments and Evolve Funds Group previously launched Bitcoin ETFs as well, attracting nearly $1.3 billion and $100 million in assets under management as of mid-April, respectively.

Previously, the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission approved two cryptocurrency ETFs in March, including a 100% Bitcoin ETF and the other composed of five cryptocurrencies.

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