Why Merrill Lynch's Bitcoin ban is likely to continue

This article was initially posted on August 13, 2018 by Financial Advisor IQ and features Withers' Corporate Partner, Ridge Barker.

Last week, the SEC delayed any ruling that would let Cboe Global Markets offer shares of a Bitcoin ETF. The news followed the regulators’ rejection in late July of a Bitcoin-related ETF proposed by the Winklevoss twins.

Both outcomes precipitated further declines in the cryptocurrency’s price. Bitcoin has fallen from a high of $19,000 in December 2017 to under $5,000 at press time.

That price-tumbling makes Merrill Lynch Wealth Management managers appear prescient since the wirehouse, in a policy decision first disclosed in January, barred its roughly 17,000 advisors from pitching investments related to Bitcoin. Nothing that has happened in the past six months has prompted Merrill Lynch to alter that ban.

“We have not made any changes to our policy,” a Merrill Lynch spokesperson wrote in response to an FA-IQ inquiry this week.

For some independent advisors, Merrill Lynch’s ban makes perfect sense. “They are wisely avoiding potential liability for recommending something that is obviously speculative, exceeds the risk tolerance of most investors and has no underlying value,” J. Brent Everett, the chief investment officer for Talis Advisors in Plano, Texas.

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