SEC Orders Temporary Halt Of Swedish Bitcoin, Ether ETNs As Citi Launches “Game Changing” Way To Invest In Cryptocurrencies

Just when cryptos looked to have stabilized after Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin sent the price of ether sharply lower Saturday afternoon when he declared that “the days of explosive growth in the blockchain industry have likely come and gone”, the SEC has given investors even more incentive to sell.

The agency dealt the market a serious blow Sunday evening when it announced that it had temporarily suspended trading in popular Swedish ETNs, bitcoin tracker and Ethereum tracker, due to “confusion amongst market participants regarding these products.” The news appeared to overshadow a Business Insider report claiming that Citigroup had created a new financial product called a “digital asset receipt” that would allow institutional investors a less-risky avenue for owning crypto.

The New York-based bank has come up with perhaps the most direct way to invest in cryptocurrencies without actually owning them, according to people with knowledge of the plans. The structure would place cryptocurrencies within existing regulatory regimes and give big Wall Street investors like asset managers and hedge funds a less risky way of investing in the fledgling asset class.

Citi has developed an instrument it’s calling a Digital Asset Receipt or DAR. It works much like an American Depository Receipt or ADR, which has been around for decades to give US investors a way to own foreign stocks that don’t otherwise trade on US exchanges. The foreign stock is held by a bank, which then issues the depository receipt.

In this case, the cryptocurrency is held by a custodian and the DAR is issued by Citigroup, the people said. The bank will alert the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp, a Wall Street middleman that provides clearing and settlement services, once it’s issued the receipt, one of the people said. That lends an important layer of legitimacy and gives investors a way to track the investment within a system that they’re already familiar with, the person added.

The project is a collaboration between the bank’s capital markets origination team and the depository receipts services team, the people said.

The top cryptos, which were up slightly on the day ahead of the report, turned lower on the news:

BTC

Read the SEC’s full statement below:

SEC

the Citi news should be of interest to investors since the DAR would allow institutions to buy exposure to crypto without taking on all of the risk – something the market has been on the lookout for since before the SEC declined to authorize a bitcoin ETF. Instead of holding crypto directly, asset managers would hold the note and leave the obligation of security to the DTCC. But whether institutions take an interest in the product is another matter: until upward momentum organically returns, we imagine they’ll stay away.

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