Were Centra's tokens securities? Well, yes, obviously. We talked last week about the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement action against Munchee, an initial coin offering vaguely similar to Centra's in that it featured "utility tokens" to be used in a blockchain ecosystem that did not yet exist, sold on promises of speculative returns. The SEC brusquely and correctly dismissed the notion that such "utility tokens" were not securities, and I suspect any court will agree. Also, while Centra occasionally remembered to call its tokens "utility-based tokens" and "not securities, shares or investments," it often forgot. From the complaint:
It is important to note, however, that leverage means that your potential losses may also be much higher. If pork belly prices fall, call options lose value in a much higher proportion than the pork bellies themselves. In the above example, if the price of pork bellies falls from 1,000 to 900 USD (by 10%), the price of call options may fall from 10.5 USD to almost zero, resulting in a near-total loss of your funds instead of a small loss of just 10%.
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Commonly, investments subject to interest rate risk will decrease in value when interest rates rise and increase in value when interest rates decline. The value of securities with longer maturities may fluctuate more in response to interest rate changes than securities with shorter maturities. A wide variety of factors can cause interest rates to rise (e.g., central bank monetary policies, inflation rates, general economic conditions, etc.). This risk may be elevated under current economic conditions because interest rates are at historically low levels. Returns on investment in debt instruments may trail the returns on other investment options, including investments in equity securities.
• Developmental risk. Blockchain technology is not a product or service within an individually attributable revenue stream. Blockchain technology may never develop optimized transactional processes that lead to realized economic returns for any company in which the Fund invests. Blockchain Companies that are developing applications of blockchain technology applications may not in fact do so or may not be able to capitalize on those blockchain technologies. The development of new or competing platforms may cause consumers and investors to use alternatives to blockchains.
Let’s say Larry owns one bitcoin and the current price is $16,600, be believes the price is overdone to the upside for a short period of time. This is a fictional example, so don’t beat me up on the outlook, you can criticize Larry, but he’s made up too. Larry has a futures account and sees that he can sell short a January XBT Future at $17,600. He decides to do this and is now short 1 January XBT Future at $17,600.
BitMEX is a derivatives exchange that offers leveraged contracts that are bought and sold in Bitcoin. This is a platform that provides trading in bitcoin derivatives. The derivative traded is a perpetual swap contract, which is a derivative product similar to a traditional Futures Contract. Swap contracts trade like spots, tracking the underlying assets.
While cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that are managed through advanced encryption techniques, many governments have taken a cautious approach toward them, fearing their lack of central control and the effects they could have on financial security. Regulators in several countries have warned against cryptocurrency and some have taken concrete regulatory measures to dissuade users. Additionally, many banks do not offer services for cryptocurrencies and can refuse to offer services to virtual-currency companies. Gareth Murphy, a senior central banking officer has stated "widespread use [of cryptocurrency] would also make it more difficult for statistical agencies to gather data on economic activity, which are used by governments to steer the economy". He cautioned that virtual currencies pose a new challenge to central banks' control over the important functions of monetary and exchange rate policy. While traditional financial products have strong consumer protections in place, there is no intermediary with the power to limit consumer losses if bitcoins are lost or stolen. One of the features cryptocurrency lacks in comparison to credit cards, for example, is consumer protection against fraud, such as chargebacks.
Futures contracts with a longer term to expiration may be priced higher than futures contracts with a shorter term to expiration, a relationship called “contango.” Conversely, futures contracts with a longer term to expiration may be priced lower than futures contracts with a shorter term to expiration, a relationship called “backwardation.” Contango and backwardation have different impacts on ProShares Bitcoin/Blockchain ProShares Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF, ProShares Bitcoin Futures/Equity Strategy ETF and ProShares Bitcoin/Blockchain Strategy ETF (each, a “Bitcoin Fund”) and ProShares Short Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF (the “Short Bitcoin Fund”).
fluctuations in the value of the foreign currency between the acquisition and disposition of the position also are treated as ordinary income or loss. In certain circumstances, a Fund may elect to treat foreign currency gain or loss attributable to a forward contract, a futures contract or an option as capital gain or loss. Furthermore, foreign currency gain or loss arising from certain types of section 1256 contracts is treated as capital gain or loss, although a Fund may elect to treat foreign currency gain or loss from such contracts as ordinary in character. These gains and losses, referred to under the Code as “section 988” gains or losses, increase or decrease the amount of a Fund’s investment company taxable income available (and required) to be distributed to its shareholders as ordinary income. If a Fund’s section 988 losses exceed other investment company taxable income during a taxable year, the Fund would not be able to make any ordinary dividend distributions, or distributions made before the losses were realized would be recharacterized as a return of capital to shareholders, rather than as ordinary dividends, thereby reducing each shareholder’s basis in his or her Fund Shares.
• Rolling Futures Contract Risk — The Fund will invest in and have exposure to bitcoin futures contracts and is subject to risks related to “rolling” such contracts. Rolling occurs when the Fund closes out of a futures contract as it nears its expiration and replaces it with a contract that has a later expiration. The Fund does not intend to hold futures contracts through expiration, but instead intends to “roll” its futures positions. When the market for these futures contracts is such that the prices are higher in the more distant delivery months than in the nearer delivery months, the sale during the course of the rolling process of the more nearby contract would take place at a price that is lower than the price of the more distant contract. This pattern of higher futures contract prices for longer expiration contracts is often referred to as “contango.” Alternatively, when the market for futures contracts is such that the prices are higher in the nearer months than in the more distant months, the sale during the course of the rolling process of the more nearby contract would take place at a price that is higher than the price of the more distant contract. This pattern of higher futures prices for shorter expiration futures contracts is referred to as “backwardation.” Extended periods of contango could cause significant losses for the Fund. The Advisor will utilize active management techniques to seek to mitigate the negative impact or, in certain cases, benefit from the contango or backwardation present in the various futures contract markets, but there can be no guarantee that it will be successful in doing so.
Shares may be redeemed only in Creation Units at their NAV next determined after receipt of a redemption request in proper form by the Distributor on any Business Day. The Trust will not redeem Shares in amounts less than Creation Units. Beneficial owners also may sell Shares in the secondary market, but must accumulate enough Shares to constitute a Creation Unit in order to have such Shares redeemed by the Trust. There can be no assurance, however, that there will be sufficient liquidity in the public trading market at any time to permit assembly of a Creation Unit of Shares. Investors should expect to incur brokerage and other costs in connection with assembling a sufficient number of Shares to constitute a redeemable Creation Unit.
Transactions in options, futures, forward contracts, swaps and certain positions undertaken by the Funds may result in “straddles” for federal income tax purposes. The straddle rules may affect the character of gains (or losses) realized by a Fund, and losses realized by the Fund on positions that are part of a straddle may be deferred under the straddle rules, rather than being taken into account in calculating taxable income for the taxable year in which the losses are realized. In addition, certain carrying charges (including interest expense) associated with positions in a straddle may be required to be capitalized rather than deducted currently. Certain elections that a Fund may make with respect to its straddle positions may also affect the amount, character and timing of the recognition of gains or losses from the affected positions.
On March 18, 2013, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) a bureau of the US Department of the Treasury, issued interpretive guidance relating to the application of the Bank Secrecy Act to distributing, exchanging and transmitting “virtual currencies.” More specifically, it determined that a user of virtual currencies (such as bitcoin) for its own account will not be considered a money service business (“MSB”) or be required to register, report and perform recordkeeping; however, an administrator or exchanger of virtual currency must be a registered money services business under FinCEN’s money transmitter regulations. As a result, Bitcoin Exchanges that deal with U.S. residents or otherwise fall under U.S. jurisdiction are required to obtain licenses and comply with FinCEN regulations. FinCEN released additional guidance clarifying that, under the facts presented, miners acting solely for their own benefit, software developers, hardware manufacturers, escrow service providers and investors in bitcoin would not be required to register with FinCEN on the basis of such activity alone, but that Bitcoin Exchanges, certain types of payment processors and convertible digital asset administrators would likely be required to register with FinCEN on the basis of the activities described in the October 2014 and August 2015 letters. FinCEN has also taken significant enforcement steps against companies alleged to have violated its regulations, including the assessment in July 2017 of a civil money penalty in excess of $110 million against BTC-e for alleged willful violation of U.S. anti-money laundering laws.
Each Fund may enter into swap agreements to invest in a market without owning or taking physical custody of securities. On a typical long swap, the counterparty will generally agree to pay the Fund the amount, if any, by which the notional amount of the swap agreement would have increased in value had it been invested in the particular underlying assets (e.g., an ETF, or securities comprising a benchmark index), plus the dividends or interest that would have been received on those assets. The Fund will agree to pay to the counterparty a floating rate of interest on the notional amount of the swap agreement plus the amount, if any, by which the notional amount would have decreased in value had it been invested in such assets plus, in certain instances, commissions or trading spreads on the notional amount. Therefore, the return to the Fund on such swap agreements should be the gain or loss on the notional amount plus dividends or interest on the assets less the interest paid by the Fund on the notional amount. As a trading technique, the Advisor may substitute physical securities with a swap agreement having investment characteristics substantially similar to the underlying securities. Some Funds may also enter into swap agreements that provide the opposite return of their benchmark or a security. Their operations are similar to that of the swaps disclosed above except that the counterparty pays interest to each Fund on the notional amount outstanding and that dividends or interest on the underlying instruments reduce the value of the swap, plus, in certain instances, each Fund will agree to pay to the counterparty commissions or trading spreads on the notional amount. These amounts are often netted with any unrealized gain or loss to determine the value of the swap.
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.