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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is scrutinising internal communications by OpenAI Chief Executive Sam Altman as part of an ongoing investigation into whether the company’s investors were misled, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The regulator has been seeking internal records from current and former OpenAI officials and directors and has sent a subpoena to the company in December, the WSJ report said, citing people familiar with the matter. 

The report added that the investigation followed the OpenAI board’s decision in November to fire Sam Altman as CEO and oust him from the board.

According to a Bloomberg report, to regain his job, Altman had agreed to an internal investigation, among other conditions. 

The abrupt nature of Altman‘s firing and a statement from the board saying that he hadn’t been “consistently candid in his communications” set up expectations for the emergence of a smoking gun. 

Even though there have been revelations of tensions within OpenAI over Altman’s fundraising for an outside chip venture, including seeking funding in the Middle East, nothing like that has come out. Altman also had a dispute with former board member Helen Toner over a research paper she’d co-written that was critical of the company.

The Bloomberg report, citing a person with direct knowledge of the board’s thinking, who asked not to be named discussing private business matters, said that it was Altman’s pattern of behavior, rather than a single egregious action, that caused the board to lose trust in him.

In December, Bret Taylor, the chair of OpenAI’s board, said that the board will continue to take steps to strengthen OpenAI’s corporate governance. 

“While the review is ongoing, the board will continue to take steps to strengthen OpenAI’s corporate governance, build a qualified and diverse board of exceptional individuals, and oversee OpenAI’s important mission in ensuring that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity,” he said.

 

 

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Published: 29 Feb 2024, 11:31 AM IST

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