• Changes in the Bitcoin Network could have an adverse effect on the operation and value of bitcoin, which could have an adverse effect on the value of Bitcoin Futures Contracts and the value of Fund Shares. The open source nature of the Bitcoin protocol permits any developer to review the underlying code and suggest changes to it via “Bitcoin Improvement Proposals”, or “BIPs.” If accepted by a sufficient number of miners, BIPs may result in substantial changes to the Bitcoin Network, including changes that result in “forks.” Such changes may influence the price of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Futures Contracts. In particular, it is possible that the price of the Bitcoin Futures Contracts subsequent to a “fork” may be linked to the price of bitcoin on only one of the resulting Bitcoin Networks, rather than the aggregate price of bitcoin on all resulting Bitcoin Networks. The CBOE Futures Exchange (“CFE”) and Chicago Mercantile Exchange (“CME”) have announced different protocols for addressing forks.
A Fund’s current obligations under most swap agreements (total return swaps, equity/index swaps, interest rate swaps) will be accrued daily (offset against any amounts owed to the Fund) and any accrued but unpaid net amounts owed to a swap counterparty will be covered by segregating or earmarking cash or other assets determined to be liquid, but typically no payments will be made until the settlement date. In connection with CDS in which a Fund is a “buyer”, the Fund will segregate or earmark cash or assets determined to be liquid by the Advisor, with a value at least equal to the Fund’s maximum potential exposure under the swap (e.g., any accrued but unpaid net amounts owed by the Fund to any clearinghouse counterparty). In connection with CDS in which a Fund is a “seller”, however, the Fund will segregate or earmark cash or assets determined to be liquid by the Advisor, with a value at least equal to the full notional amount of the swap (minus any variation margin or amounts owed to the Fund under an offsetting cleared transaction). This segregation or earmarking is intended to ensure that a Fund has assets available to satisfy its potential obligations with respect to the transaction. Each Fund reserves the right to modify its asset segregation policies in the future, including modifications to comply with any changes in the positions articulated by the SEC or its staff regarding asset segregation. Swap agreements that cannot be terminated in the ordinary course of business within seven days at approximately the amount a Fund has valued the asset may be considered to be illiquid for purposes of the Fund’s illiquid investment limitations.
There are two USA regulated Bitcoin futures exchanges in operation. The CME’s contract unit is five Bitcoins whereas the Cboe’s contract unit is one—that’s the biggest difference between these futures. The upfront money to buy or sell short a CME contract will be about five times higher than the Cboe contract. Larger investors won’t care but this will be an issue for smaller investors. Another difference is the spot/settlement process that the exchanges use. In the case of Cboe futures, the contracts will be settled to a 4 pm ET Gemini exchange auction price on the day of expiration, for the CME futures the settlement price is a complex calculation using an hour of volume weighted data from multiple exchanges (currently Bitstamp, itBit, Kraken, and GDAX). With the CME’s approach, it will be harder to manipulate the settlement price but it doesn’t give arbitrageurs a physical mechanism to trade their positions—possibly an issue.
Most swap agreements entered into by a Fund (but generally not CDS) calculate and settle the obligations of the parties to the agreement on a “net basis” with a single payment. Consequently, a Fund’s current obligations (or rights) under a swap agreement will generally be equal only to the net amount to be paid or received under the agreement based on the relative values of the positions held by each party to the agreement (the “net amount”). Other swap agreements, such as CDS, may require initial premium (discount) payments as well as periodic payments (receipts) related to the interest leg of the swap or to the default of the reference entity.
Securities (including short-term securities) and other assets are generally valued at their market value using information provided by a pricing service or market quotations. Short-term securities are valued on the basis of amortized cost or based on market prices. Futures contracts and options on securities, indexes and futures contracts are generally valued at their last sale price prior to the time at which the NAV per share of a class of shares of a Fund is determined. Alternatively, fair valuation procedures as described below may be applied if deemed more appropriate. Routine valuation of certain other derivatives is performed using procedures approved by the Board of Trustees.
That includes institutional investors, who are increasingly interested in the benefits that crypto could offer their portfolios — to a degree that might have been unthinkable even six months ago. These investors, who have $130 trillion of assets under management worldwide, could have a huge impact on the crypto market, whose market cap remains under $300 billion.
Since the introduction of futures, the price of bitcoin has gone up, suggesting that there were more As -- people who wanted to be long bitcoin synthetically -- than Cs -- people who wanted to be short synthetically -- though again it is still early. Crudely speaking, the arbitrage spread suggests that there are also more As than Bs: There are a lot of people who want to be long bitcoin without owning bitcoin, but not so many people who want to own bitcoin without being long bitcoin. (Which makes sense! If you bought a bitcoin and sold a futures contract when Cboe launched its futures last week, you could have locked in a risk-free arbitrage profit of something like $1,200. But if you had just bought a bitcoin, you'd be up about $3,000 by now.) The costs of trading actual bitcoins on bitcoin exchanges -- in terms of blockchain transaction costs, exchange withdrawal limits, etc. -- are significant enough that people who want bitcoin exposure are willing to pay about 2 percent to avoid them.
More generally, investments by a Fund in options, futures, forward contracts, swaps and other derivative financial instruments are subject to numerous special and complex tax rules. These rules could affect whether gains and losses recognized by a Fund are treated as ordinary or capital, accelerate the recognition of income or gains to a Fund and defer or possibly prevent the recognition or use of certain losses by a Fund. The rules could, in turn, affect the amount, timing or character of the income distributed to shareholders by a Fund. In addition, because the tax rules applicable to such instruments may be uncertain under current law, an adverse determination or future IRS guidance with respect to these rules (which determination or guidance could be retroactive) may affect whether a Fund has made sufficient distributions and otherwise satisfied the relevant requirements to maintain its qualification as a RIC and avoid a Fund-level tax.
There may be circumstances outside the control of the Advisor, Trust, Administrator (as defined below), transfer agent, Custodian (as defined below), any sub-custodian, Distributor (as defined below), and/or a Fund that make it, for all practical purposes, impossible to re-position such Fund and/or to process a purchase or redemption order. Examples of such circumstances include: natural disasters; public service disruptions or utility problems such as those caused by fires, floods, extreme weather conditions, and power outages resulting in telephone, telecopy, and computer failures; market conditions or activities causing trading halts; systems failures involving computer or other information systems affecting the aforementioned parties, as well as the DTC, the NSCC, or any other participant in the purchase process; and similar extraordinary events. Accordingly, while the Advisor has implemented and tested a business continuity plan that transfers functions of any disrupted facility to another location and has effected a disaster recovery plan, circumstances, such as those above, may prevent a Fund from being operated in a manner consistent with its investment objective and/or principal investment strategies.
• Compounding Risk — In the course of managing the Fund’s investments, ProShare Advisors will need to periodically adjust the Fund’s holdings in order to maintain investment exposure approximately equivalent to the Fund’s assets. This process entails obtaining additional inverse exposure as the Fund experiences gains, and reducing inverse exposure as the Fund experiences losses. The higher the volatility of the bitcoin futures contracts in which the Fund invests, the more such rebalancing can adversely affect the Fund’s performance.
The regulation of bitcoin, digital assets and related products and services continues to evolve. The inconsistent and sometimes conflicting regulatory landscape may make it more difficult for bitcoin businesses to provide services, which may impede the growth of the bitcoin economy and have an adverse effect on consumer adoption of bitcoin. There is a possibility of future regulatory change altering, perhaps to a material extent, the nature of an investment in the Funds or the ability of the Funds to continue to operate. Additionally, to the extent that bitcoin itself is determined to be a security, commodity future or other regulated asset, or to the extent that a United States or foreign government or quasi-governmental agency exerts regulatory authority over the Bitcoin Network, bitcoin trading or ownership in bitcoin, the price of bitcoin and the value of the Bitcoin Instruments may be adversely affected, which may have an adverse effect on the value of your investment in the Funds. In sum, bitcoin regulation takes many different forms and will, therefore, impact bitcoin and its usage in a variety of manners. The European Union has recently agreed to rules designed to reduce anonymity of bitcoin transactions, which may impact the supply and demand for bitcoin and bitcoin futures contracts.
Cryptocurrencies allow traders to diversify their investment portfolio, as their price is mainly determined by demand and supply; Their value has a low correlation to national economies or political scenarios. Once Bitcoin surpassed the price of gold in 2017, US markets introduced 2 ETFs on Bitcoin and drew more and more institutional money into the world of cryptocurrencies. In 2017, Indian PM Narendra Modi has announced the gradual replacement of paper currency with electronic currency; In March 2018, the Marshall Islands announced that they would be introducing a cryptocurrency to replace US dollars as their main currency; other central banks are investigating the adoption of blockchain-like technologies… in short cryptocurrencies are probably here to stay. A growing number of crypto investors all over the world have already discovered the benefits:
The ICON technology (ICX) is incredibly exciting because it aims to harbor the single largest decentralized global network. It aims to provide its users a certain degree of connectivity between countries and cultures around the world that’s currently just not possible or non-existent. This network gives way to businesses and individuals to communicate, transfer, deposit, and in many different ways cooperate with each other in a never seen before way. ICON shows extraordinary potential for the future, but it’s already boasting a large community made of reputable security institutions, banks, hospitals, insurances, universities and institutions in many other sectors. Crucially, ICON is NOT yet tradable in South Korea – when that changes I expect this coin to moon.
When a new crypto is launched, its founders announce how many coins will be mined. Once the quota is reached, no further coins can be produced. The first digital coin introduced was Bitcoin, which remains today the benchmark for all other digital coins. Among other currencies that have made their way into the cryptocurrency hall-of-fame we have: Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, EOS, and a number of derived currencies, including Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold.
The Board has determined that its leadership structure is appropriate in light of the characteristics of the Trust and each of the Funds. These characteristics include, among other things, the fact that all Funds are organized under one Trust; all Funds are exchange-traded funds; all Funds have common service providers; and that the majority of Funds are geared funds, with similar principal investment strategies. As a result, the Board addresses governance and management issues that are often common to all or most of the Funds. In light of these characteristics, the Board has determined that a four-member Board, including three Independent
of the calendar year, and (3) all such ordinary income and capital gains that were not distributed in previous years. For purposes of the required excise tax distribution, ordinary gains and losses from the sale, exchange, or other taxable disposition of property that would be properly taken into account after October 31 are generally treated as arising on January 1 of the following calendar year. Also, for these purposes, the Fund will be treated as having distributed any amount on which it is subject to corporate income tax for the taxable year ending within the calendar year. The Funds intend generally to make distributions sufficient to avoid imposition of the excise tax, although the Funds reserve the right to pay an excise tax rather than make an additional distribution when circumstances warrant (for example, the payment of the excise tax amount is deemed to be de minimis).
Various government agencies, departments, and courts have classified bitcoin differently. China Central Bank banned the handling of bitcoins by financial institutions in China in early 2014. In Russia, though cryptocurrencies are legal, it is illegal to actually purchase goods with any currency other than the Russian ruble. Regulations and bans that apply to bitcoin probably extend to similar cryptocurrency systems.
The price of bitcoin on individual bitcoin exchanges, as well as the broader Bitcoin Exchange Market generally, has experienced periods of extreme volatility. This volatility is due in part to low liquidity and the changes exhibited by an early stage technological innovation. Speculators and investors who seek to profit from trading and holding bitcoin currently account for a significant portion of bitcoin demand. Such speculation regarding the potential future appreciation in the value of bitcoin may artificially inflate the price of bitcoin causing a negative impact on the performance of certain Funds which take a short position in bitcoin futures contracts. Conversely, government regulation and the perception of onerous regulatory actions may cause a drop in the price of bitcoin causing a negative impact on the performance of certain Funds which take a long position in bitcoin futures contracts. Developments related to the Bitcoin Network’s operations, Bitcoin Exchanges and the overall Bitcoin Exchange Market also contribute to the volatility in the price of bitcoin. These factors may continue to increase the volatility of the price of bitcoin which may have a negative impact on the performance of the Bitcoin Instruments and on the performance of the Funds.
• Active Management Risk — The performance of actively managed funds reflects, in part, the ability of ProShare Advisors to select investments and make investment decisions that are suited to achieving the Fund’s investment objective. ProShare Advisors’ judgments about the Fund’s investments may prove to be incorrect. If the investments selected and strategies employed by ProShare Advisors fail to produce the intended results, the Fund may not achieve its investment objective and could underperform other funds with a similar investment objective and/or strategies.
Example: spot BTC/USD is $500. A weekly futures contract expires in 7 days. What should it be trading at? Using a 5% APY USD rate and a 1% BTC rate, you borrow $500, invest in 1 BTC. 7 days later, you will have paid $0.48 in USD interest, and earned 0.0002 BTC ($0.10 at current spot price). A reasonable price for the futures contract would be somewhere more than $0.38 (the difference between the $0.48 interest paid $0.10 expected interest received) above spot price. This is because you would be able to lock in the sale of the 1 BTC that is being invested at a higher price. You know you have to pay back $500 plus interest, and you earn a little interest on the bitcoin, so any futures contract trading significantly above that $0.38 deficit in the spot play would give you a great arbitrage opportunity:
The Funds may invest in both sponsored and unsponsored depositary receipts. Certain depositary receipts, typically those designated as “unsponsored,” require the holders thereof to bear most of the costs of such facilities, while issuers of “sponsored” facilities normally pay more of the costs thereof. The depository of an unsponsored facility frequently is under no obligation to distribute shareholder communications received from the issuer of the deposited securities or to pass through the voting rights to facility holders with respect to the deposited securities, whereas the depository of a sponsored facility typically distributes shareholder communications and passes through the voting rights.
When cash markets are not functioning well, cash and carry arbitrage (and its reverse) futures markets may make the underlying asset accessible to more people. It is possible that A is bullish on bitcoin, but does not wish to go through the hassles of creating a wallet and storing it safely. At the same time, B might be comfortable with bitcoin wallets, but might be unwilling to take bitcoin price risk. Then B can buy bitcoin spot and sell cash settled bitcoin futures to A; the result is that A obtains exposure to bitcoin without creating a bitcoin wallet, while B obtains a risk free investment (a synthetic T-bill). Similarly, suppose C wishes to bet against bitcoin, but does not have the ability to short it; while D has no views on bitcoin, but has sufficient access to the cash market to be able to short bitcoin. Then D can take a risk free position by shorting bitcoin in the cash market and buying bitcoin futures from C who obtains a previously unavailable short position.
• Futures Position Limit Risk — Limits on the amount of futures any one entity can hold may negatively impact the Fund’s ability to meet its investment objective if such limits are reached and exceptions to such limits are not granted. Currently the position limits for bitcoin futures contracts are much lower than they are for most other futures contracts.
The Funds subject to the SEC “names rule” (Rule 35d-1 under the 1940 Act) have adopted non-fundamental investment policies obligating them to commit, under normal market conditions, at least 80% of their assets exposed to the types of securities suggested by their name and/or investments with similar economic characteristics. Such direct or inverse exposure may be obtained
Options give the holder of the option the right to buy (or to sell) a position in a security or in a contract to the writer of the option, at a certain price. There may be imperfect correlation, or even no correlation, between price movements of an options contract and price movements of investments underlying an options contract. Lack of correlation (or tracking) may be due to factors unrelated to the value of the investments being hedged, such as speculative or other pressures on the markets in which these instruments are traded. Consequently, the effectiveness of bitcoin options in providing exposure to the price movements of options will depend, in part, on the degree of correlation between price movements in the derivatives and price movements in underlying bitcoin markets. Exchanges can limit the number of positions that can be held or controlled by the Fund or the Sub-Adviser, thus limiting the ability to implement the Fund’s strategies. Options are also particularly subject to leverage risk and can be subject to liquidity risk.
For hedging purposes, the Funds may invest in forward currency contracts to hedge either specific transactions (transaction hedging) or portfolio positions (position hedging). Transaction hedging is the purchase or sale of forward currency contracts with respect to specific receivables or payables of the Funds in connection with the purchase and sale of portfolio securities. Position hedging is the sale of a forward currency contract on a particular currency with respect to portfolio positions denominated or quoted in that currency.
But… it's also possible that the institutional investors that are negative on bitcoin's prospects (and there's no shortage of those) may use the futures markets to put money behind their conviction. It's much easier to sell a futures contract with a lower-than-market price than it is to actually short bitcoin. These investors may well send signals to the actual bitcoin market that sends prices tumbling.
uncleared swaps. If a counterparty becomes bankrupt or otherwise fails to perform its obligations due to financial difficulties, a Fund could suffer significant losses on these contracts and the value of an investor’s investment in the Fund may decline. OTC swaps of the type that may be utilized by the Fund are less liquid than futures contracts because they are not traded on an exchange, do not have uniform terms and conditions, and are generally entered into based upon the creditworthiness of the parties and the availability of credit support, such as collateral, and in general, are not transferable without the consent of the counterparty.
• If a Fund qualifies for treatment as a regulated investment company, it is not subject to federal income tax on net investment income and net realized capital gains that the Fund timely distributes to its shareholders. If a Fund were to fail to so qualify, and were ineligible to or otherwise did not cure such failure, its taxable income and gains would be subject to tax at the Fund level, and distributions from earnings and profits would be taxable to shareholders as ordinary income.
The CFTC, in conjunction with other federal regulators, also recently proposed stricter margin requirements for certain swap transactions. If adopted, the proposed requirements could increase the amount of margin necessary to conduct many swap transactions, limit the types of assets that can be used as collateral for such transactions, and impose other restrictions. The rule proposal may affect the ability of the Funds to use swap agreements (as well as futures contracts and options on futures contracts or commodities) and may substantially increase regulatory compliance costs for the Advisor and the Funds. As of the date of this SAI, the ultimate impact of the rule proposal on the Funds is uncertain. It is possible, however, that any adopted rule may adversely affect the Advisor’s ability to manage the Funds, may impair a Funds’ ability to achieve its investment objective and/or may result in reduced returns to Fund investors.
There are also tax risks associated with investments in MLPs. While there are benefits to MLPs that are treated as partnerships for federal income tax purposes, a change to current tax law or in the underlying business of a given MLP could result in the MLP being treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes. If the MLP were treated as a corporation, the MLP would be required to pay federal income tax on its taxable income, which would reduce the amount of cash available for distribution by the MLP. In addition, because MLPs generally conduct business in multiple states, the Fund may be subject to income or franchise tax in each of the states in which the partnership does business. The additional cost of preparing and filing the tax returns and paying related taxes may adversely impact the Fund’s return.
The existence of market makers (e.g., Virtu Financial) refutes a common assertion about futures—that there‘s always a loser for every winner, that it’s a zero-sum game. It’s true that derivatives like stock options and futures are created in matched pairs—a long and a short contract. If two speculators own those two contracts the profits on one side are offset by losses on the other but market makers are not speculators. In general, they’re not betting on the direction of the market. They act as intermediaries, selling to buyers at the higher ask price and buying from sellers at the lower bid price— collecting the difference.