By Trevor Hunnicutt and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday denied a request to list what would have been the first U.S. exchange-traded fund built to track bitcoin, the digital currency.
Investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have been trying for more than three years to convince the SEC to let it bring the Bitcoin ETF to market. CBOE Holdings Inc's Bats exchange had applied to list the ETF.
The digital currency's price plunged, losing some 18 percent in trading immediately after the decision.
Bitcoin had scaled to a record of nearly $1,300 earlier this month, higher than the price of gold, as investors speculated that an ETF holding the digital currency could woo more people into buying the asset.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency that can be used to move money around the world quickly and with relative anonymity, without the need for a central authority, such as a bank or government.
Yet bitcoin presents a new set of risks to investors given its limited adoption, a number of massive cybersecurity breaches affecting bitcoin owners and the lack of consistent treatment of the assets by governments.
The Winklevoss twins are best known for their feud with Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg over whether he stole the idea for what became the world's most popular social networking website from them. The former Olympic rowers ultimately settled their legal dispute, which was dramatized in the 2010 film "The Social Network."
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler)