This Grayscale-backed ETF now trades under BTC — but it buys US debt

Grayscale logo in grey and white rendered in an abstract style

Grayscale, the now-$50 billion crypto fund, recently purchased a stake in New York-based ETF provider ClearShares.

Now, one of ClearShares’ smaller ETFs — previously known as PIFI — has changed its ticker symbol to BTC. Although, it doesn’t hold any Bitcoin, or any digital assets at all.

Before today, Bloomberg reported PIFI was a $32 million ETF called Piton Intermediate Fixed Income Exchange.

A Grayscale spokesperson told Protos that PIFI invests in corporate bonds, US government agency bonds, and US Treasury notes — practically the opposite of Bitcoin.

They explained that Grayscale took an ownership stake in ClearShares as part of its long-term commitment to bring crypto ETFs to market “with the potential to collaborate on products with investment strategies related to the digital currency industry.”

Indeed, the crypto industry is eagerly awaiting Grayscale’s Bitcoin ETF application. The so-called “Grayscale Premium” flipped to a negative for the first time ever earlier this year, which has the fund re-evaluating the long-term viability of its flagship Bitcoin Trust.

However, Grayscale won’t confirm the PIFI fund in question is destined to ditch US debt for Bitcoin.

“There are no immediate plans to change the investment objective of the fund in connection with the change of its ticker symbol,” said the spokesperson in an email.

PIFI becomes BTC, you can’t explain that

The thing is, public stocks have a history of pretending to adopt crypto or blockchain in a bid to boost share prices.

A notable example is the Long Island Ice Tea Corporation, which changed its name in the heat of 2017’s bull market to Long Blockchain.

Long Blockchain claimed the change was to reflect its “investment in opportunities that leverage the benefits of blockchain technology.” The company also reported it was preparing to explore blockchain-related acquisitions.

Aside from an initial uptick in share price, the move didn’t stick. Long Blockchain was later investigated by the SEC, labelled a pump and dump by the FBI, and removed from the Nasdaq altogether.

Of course, Grayscale and ClearShares more than likely have honorable intentions. And even though they won’t admit it, changing PIFI to BTC most probably has something to do with Grayscale’s quest for a Bitcoin ETF anyway.

The blockchain pivot worked for Long Island Iced Tea… for a while.

[Read more: Activist investor says Grayscale’s Bitcoin ETF pledge is not enough]

But it’s realistic to assume that — at least in the interim — some investors may buy ClearShares’ new BTC ticker assuming they’re gaining exposure to Bitcoin, when in fact they’re buying US government debt. 

Protos pressed Grayscale for a comment on the irony: “We won’t be commenting on changes to ticker symbols,” said a spokesperson.

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