Merrill Lynch Bans Clients from Investing in Bitcoin Fund

Merrill Lynch, the brokerage arm of Bank of America, has blocked financial advisers and clients from trading in bitcoin-related investments.

The ban extends to clients trading in Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, a fund led by bitcoin entrepreneur Barry Silbert. The decision to block access to the fund was due to concerns about the “suitability and eligibility standards of this product,” an internal memo circulated to approximately 17,000 advisers states.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the bank has extended a ban on recently launched bitcoin futures contracts. A WSJ source said Merrill Lynch put the policy in place on Dec. 8, just two days prior to the launch of bitcoin futures by CBOE.

The source also said that existing bitcoin funds cannot be held in fee-based advisory accounts, but can be maintained in brokerage accounts.

Silbert, a former Wall Street investment banker, told Reuters:

“We look forward to speaking with Merrill Lynch and addressing any questions or concerns they have about the Bitcoin Investment Trust. We are unaware of any similar policies at other brokerage firms.”

The Futures Industry Association (FIA) published an open letter to the CFTC before the launch of bitcoin futures, airing concerns over the process in which cryptocurrency futures have come to market. Big banks and brokers including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Royal Bank of Canada have all denied clients access to bitcoin futures, the WSJ report says.

Disclosure: Grayscale Investments is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, CoinDesk’s parent company.

Merrill Lynch image via Shutterstock

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Bitcoin Investment TrustBarry SilbertBank of America Merrill Lynch

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