One of the biggest issues for institutional investors is the fragmented nature of the market, requiring them to operate on several exchanges. Often, this forces them to come up with customized ways to deal with the limitations of each exchange — a time-consuming and frustrating exercise. Not only that, but this can lead to liquidity and slippage problems, as even small trades can consume liquidity and cause prices to slip.
In the normal course of business, a Fund enters into standardized contracts created by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (“ISDA agreements”) with certain counterparties for derivative transactions. These agreements contain, among other conditions, events of default and termination events, and various covenants and representations. Certain of the Fund’s ISDA agreements contain provisions that require the Fund to maintain a pre-determined level of net assets, and/or provide limits regarding the decline of the Fund’s NAV over specific periods of time, which may or may not be exclusive of redemptions. If the Fund were to trigger such provisions and have open derivative positions, at that time counterparties to the ISDA agreements could elect to terminate such ISDA agreements and request immediate payment in an amount equal to the net liability positions, if any, under the relevant ISDA agreement. Pursuant to the terms of its ISDA agreements, the Fund will have already collateralized its liability under such agreements, in some cases only in excess of certain threshold amounts. With uncleared swaps, a Fund bears the risk of loss of the amount expected to be received under a swap agreement in the event of default or bankruptcy of a swap agreement counterparty. If such default occurs, the Fund will have contractual remedies pursuant to the swap agreements, but such remedies may be subject to bankruptcy and insolvency laws that could affect the Fund’s rights as a creditor. Thus, a Fund will typically only enter into uncleared swap agreements with major, global financial institutions that meet the Fund’s standard of creditworthiness. The Funds seek to mitigate risks by generally requiring that the counterparties for each Fund agree to post collateral for the benefit of the Fund, marked to market daily, in an amount approximately equal to what the counterparty owes the Fund subject to certain minimum thresholds, although the Funds may not always be successful. To the extent any such collateral is insufficient or there are delays in accessing the collateral, the Funds will be exposed to the risks described above, including possible delays in recovering amounts as a result of bankruptcy proceedings.
• Intellectual property rights claims may adversely affect the operation of the Bitcoin Network. Third parties may assert intellectual property rights claims relating to the operation of the Bitcoin Network. Regardless of the merit of any intellectual property or other legal action, any threatened action that reduces confidence in the Bitcoin Network’s long-term viability or the ability of end-users to hold and transfer bitcoin may adversely affect the price of bitcoin and adversely affect the price of the Bitcoin Futures Contracts held by the Fund.
Sections 1471-1474 of the Code and the U.S. Treasury and IRS guidance issued thereunder (collectively, “FATCA”) generally require a Fund to obtain information sufficient to identify the status of each of its shareholders under FATCA or under an applicable intergovernmental agreement (an “IGA”). If a shareholder fails to provide this information or otherwise fails to comply with FATCA or an IGA, a Fund or its agent may be required to withhold under FATCA at a rate of 30% with respect to that shareholder on ordinary dividends it pays to such shareholder and 30% of the gross proceeds of share redemptions or exchanges and certain Capital Gain Dividends it pays to such shareholder after December 31, 2018. If a payment by a Fund is subject to FATCA withholding, the Fund or its agent is required to withhold even if such payment would otherwise be exempt from withholding under the rules applicable to foreign shareholders described above (e.g., Capital Gain Dividends, short-term capital gain dividends, and interest-related dividends).
In June 2015, the New York Department of Financial Services (the “NYDFS”) finalized a rule that requires most businesses involved in digital currency business activity in or involving New York, excluding merchants and consumers, to apply for a license (“BitLicense”) from the NYDFS and to comply with anti-money laundering, cyber security, consumer protection, and financial and reporting requirements, among others. As an alternative to the BitLicense in New York, firms can apply for a charter to become limited purpose trust companies qualified to engage in digital currency business activity. Other states have considered regimes similar to the BitLicense, or have required digital currency businesses to register with their states as money transmitters, such as Washington and Georgia, which results in digital currency businesses being subject to requirements similar to those of NYDFS’ BitLicense regime. Certain state regulators, such as the Texas Department of Banking, Kansas Office of the State Bank Commissioner and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, have found that mere transmission of bitcoin, without activities involving transmission of fiat currency, does not constitute money transmission requiring licensure. The North Carolina Commissioner of Banks has issued guidance providing that North Carolina’s money transmission regulations only apply to the transmission of digital currency and not its use. In June 2014, the State of California adopted legislation that would formally repeal laws that could be interpreted as making illegal the use of bitcoin or other digital assets as a means of payment. In July 2017, Delaware amended its General Corporation Law to provide for the creation maintenance of certain required records by blockchain technology and permit its use for electronic transmission of stockholder communications.
Crypto Facilities and the CME Group have been calculating and publishing the Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR) since November 2016. Such an official rate is a prerequisite of options trading in the traditional markets. The BRR is calculated based on the rates from the biggest exchanges: Bitstamp, GDAX, itBit, and Kraken. More concretely, it is calculated based on all Bitcoin vs. USD trades on the participating exchanges between 3 and 4 p.m. London time. To calculate the BRR, the hour between 3 and 4 is divided into 12 intervals of 5 minutes. For each interval, the volume-weighted median of the Bitcoin price is calculated (statistically, the median, in contrast to the average, prevents single outliers from distorting the price). The BRR is then the average of these 12 median values. More details about the calculation of the BRR can be found in the BRR whitepaper.
These are NOT linked to or related in any way, to the futures contracts that trade on the CME or CBOE. Not every article I have read makes this clear. So the bright side of this story is that the contracts listed and traded on U.S. exchanges were not involved. That is encouraging from both a regulatory aspect and for the future potential growth of cryptocurrency linked products in the U.S.
There's a lot of ins and outs which can get confusing in arbitrage trading. We won't go into the technicals of why futures contracts trade at a premium to spot price. You can read a full explanation here. If it's not of interest to you, all you need to know is that there's a tendency, the further out in time the futures contract expires, for the premium to spot to be higher and higher in nominal percentage terms.