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Peter Schiff, Arthur Hayes, Raoul Pal Speak on Bitcoin ETFs Risks

2 mins
Updated by Bary Rahma
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In Brief

  • Bitcoin ETFs pose unprecedented risks, attracting institutional investors and potentially destabilizing the crypto market.
  • Centralized custody and minimal security measures could lead to catastrophic hacks and significant financial losses.
  • Bitcoin ETF investors may trigger massive sell-offs, increasing market volatility compared to long-term spot buyers.
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As Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) continue to garner attention, they also pose unprecedented risks to the cryptocurrency market. 

These financial instruments, designed to attract institutional investors, could potentially destabilize the entire industry due to several inherent vulnerabilities.

The Biggest Risks in the Current Cycle

Arthur Hayes, co-founder of BitMEX, emphasized the dangers associated with centralized entities managing large volumes of crypto assets. He pointed out that the main risk in previous cycles stemmed from centralized counterparties facing credit issues. 

“We love decentralization but then we want to make money so we go do centralized stuff and we bid up the centralized stuff and totally blow up,” Hayes remarked. 

This cycle could witness a similar pattern with ETF fund managers and custodians accumulating substantial amounts of Bitcoin.

By consolidating crypto in the hands of a few custodians, significant risks emerge. If these custodians are compromised, for instance, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Read more: 10 Best Crypto Desktop Wallets for 2024

Hayes highlighted a concerning scenario where banks, driven by regulatory requirements, custody massive amounts of crypto with minimal security measures. Unaccustomed to handling digital assets, these institutions might overlook critical cybersecurity practices. 

“If I’m going to hack crypto, I’m going after one of these US custodians whose internet security is just like an afterthought. They have no clue what they’re doing because never have they had custody of an asset. If they lose it, they don’t get to call up the Treasury or the Fed and get a bailout,” Hayes warned. 

Therefore, the potential for a significant hack looms large, with the possibility of losing billions in cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin ETFs Historical Holdings
Bitcoin ETFs Historical Holdings. Source: CryptoQuant

Peter Schiff, Chief Global Economist at Euro Pacific, echoed similar concerns. He argued that Bitcoin ETFs could lead to market instability.

Unlike spot buyers who intend to hold their Bitcoin long-term, ETF investors might trigger massive sell-offs, exacerbating market volatility.

“Bitcoin pumpers are counting on institutional ETF buying to drive higher prices. But this makes the entire market even more unstable, as all ETF buyers are future sellers,” Schiff noted

Meanwhile, Raoul Pal, co-founder of Real Vision, pointed to the concentration risk within the crypto derivatives market. He observed that a significant portion of the market is handled by a single entity, Deribit. 

“90% of the entire option market is Deribit… There’s a risk there because the amount of people who use that one counterparty,” Pal explained. 

The lack of diversification in the derivatives market could lead to systemic risks, particularly if Deribit faces issues. Pal also stressed the importance of recognizing these risks without assuming imminent failure.

Read more: Identifying & Exploring Risk on DeFi Lending Protocols

The advent of Bitcoin ETFs introduces new risk layers to the cryptocurrency market. Centralized custody, potential cybersecurity threats, and market concentration all contribute to a precarious situation. Therefore, these risks must be carefully managed to prevent significant financial disruptions. 

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Bary Rahma
Bary Rahma is a senior journalist at BeInCrypto, where she covers a broad spectrum of topics including crypto exchange-traded funds (ETFs), artificial intelligence (AI), tokenization of real-world assets (RWA), and the altcoin market. Prior to this, she was a content writer for Binance, producing in-depth research reports on cryptocurrency trends, market analysis, decentralized finance (DeFi), digital asset regulations, blockchain, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and tokenomics. Bary also...
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