Does Sam Altman still have support within OpenAI?

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By topfree

Altman-Linked Nonprofits Reverse Transparency Promises

Several nonprofits associated with Sam Altman, including OpenAI, OpenResearch, and UBI Charitable, have recently decided to withhold crucial transparency documents that they once promised to disclose upon request. Despite several years of indicating on US tax forms that the public could access their financial statements, governing documents, and conflict-of-interest policies, the organizations are now withholding this information.

When WIRED sought these records, spokespeople for OpenAI, OpenResearch, and UBI Charitable indicated that their policies had shifted, making such documents unavailable. An OpenResearch spokesperson, Sourav Das, provided an outdated conflict-of-interest policy under the organization’s old name. UBI Charitable, which facilitates unconditional cash transfers, did not produce any requested records.

The nonprofits claimed their earlier IRS statements were to highlight that they share legally required documents like their filings and original tax-exempt applications. However, it’s worth noting that there exists a separate IRS form question regarding access to legally mandated documents.

A response from UBI Charitable, authored by “UBI Admin,” did not clarify the identity of the spokesperson or why records were withheld. OpenAI’s Kayla Wood asserted that Sam Altman holds no official position at UBI Charitable.

Transparency in nonprofit documentation is atypical unless legally necessitated, and there’s no penalty for policy changes. However, this has heightened relevance due to recent criticisms from Altman’s former colleagues at OpenAI. Last year, some board members accused Altman of lacking candor. In a podcast, ex-board member Helen Toner disclosed that Altman did not communicate the launch of ChatGPT, nor his control over OpenAI’s investment fund, which he relinquished only in March. Toner and another former board member, Tasha McCauley, discussed in the Economist how Altman allegedly undermined board oversight and maintained a “toxic culture of lying.” Former employees have also claimed being silenced when raising safety concerns. None of the individuals involved responded to requests for comments at the time of writing.

Despite prior board issues, new OpenAI board chair Bret Taylor emphasized that concerns were unrelated to finances or investor communications, adding that Altman still enjoys substantial internal support.


Why did the nonprofits change their transparency policies?

The organizations have not provided a detailed explanation for why they altered their policies on transparency. They maintain that their previous statements were to highlight sharing of legally required documents.

What documents were being requested?

WIRED requested financial statements, governing documents, and conflict-of-interest policies from these nonprofits, which were previously indicated as available for public review.

How did the organizations respond to these requests?

Spokespeople for OpenAI, OpenResearch, and UBI Charitable stated current policies do not permit disclosing such documents. OpenResearch shared an outdated conflict-of-interest policy, while UBI Charitable provided no records.

Were there any legal violations?

No, shifting policies on transparency does not breach any legal requirements, as nonprofits are not penalized for choosing not to publish voluntarily disclosed documents.

What are some criticisms leveled against Altman?

Former OpenAI board members and employees have accused Altman of not being transparent about key organizational decisions and creating a “toxic culture of lying.” They contended that he undermined the board’s oversight.

Does Sam Altman still have support within OpenAI?

Yes, according to new board chair Bret Taylor, Altman continues to enjoy overwhelming support within the organization, despite the controversies.

Altman’s linked nonprofits’ recent shift in transparency commitments raises questions about ethics and governance, significantly impacting donor and public trust.

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