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The Winklevoss Twins' Money Is on Bitcoin; Should Yours Be?

Stocks in this article: FB

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Winklevoss twins, who became (in)famous after they dragged Facebook's (FB) Mark Zuckerberg to court alleging he stole their idea, are flirting with controversy again.

The buzz this time is around their plans to list the world's first publicly traded fund in everyone's shady currency of choice, bitcoin. While the  Securities and Exchange Commission was notified last year about their fund, called the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, the twins have only just disclosed their plans to list on the Nasdaq.

Investors love great returns but they absolutely hate the risk of spending time behind bars if governments suddenly wake up and decide to crack down on bitcoin.

So what the twins want to do is to make trading bitcoins as regular as trading gold through an exchange-traded fund. Another parallel is gold, which also is not controlled by a single entity.

Under the twins' scheme, each bitcoin would have five shares issued against it. Therefore, investors could buy into bitcoin without having to keep a "virtual stock" of their holdings. That job and the risk associated with it would be the responsibility of the Winklevoss bitcoin Trust.

Naturally, the fund would charge a commission for these services, which is how the twins plan to make legit money. With their large holdings of bitcoin they could also shape the market in a big way.

This plan has caused much consternation among bitcoin's critics, who point out even the SEC has been warning  how bitcoin investments carry a great degree of risk.

In a memo, the SEC warned, "A new product, technology, or innovation -- such as bitcoin -- has the potential to give rise both to frauds and high-risk investment opportunities." However, neither the SEC or the Internal Revenue Service have declared the virtual currency to be illegal.

Operating on the margins has allowed risk-hungry entrepreneurs like the Winklevoss brothers to move aggressively with bitcoin-related investments. Earlier, the twins had invested in a bitcoin exchange, and acquired up to $11 million worth of the currency. This figure is rumored to have peaked at $64 million as the currency soared to valuations close to $1,000 per bitcoin before settling to current levels of around $440.

It's this huge volatility and the lack of any central authority regulating this currency that has most traditional market players worried. Added to this is the whole cloud of money laundering and illegal activity that has been synonymous with the near-anonymous currency.

Cameron Winklevoss is the CEO of Math-Based Asset Services, the company that will manage the fund; Tyler Winklevoss is the CFO. If anything goes wrong, they can bet their bottom dollar they are going to be the ones who will be sued.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

>>Read more: Cisco Earnings Preview: What Wall Street's Saying

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