OpenAI closes its investigation into CEO Sam Altman, saying it has "full confidence" in him. He rejoins a newly expanded board

Deborah Yao, Editor

March 9, 2024

2 Min Read
Photo of Sam Altman
Getty Images

At a Glance

  • OpenAI hired a law firm to investigate the event around CEO Sam Altman's firing by the old board last November.
  • WilmerHale presented its findings to the new OpenAI board, which then declared it had "full confidence" in Altman.
  • Altman rejoined the board, which also added three new members.

OpenAI announced today that it has reinstated CEO Sam Altman to its board of directors, following the conclusion of an investigation into the events last November that led to his abrupt firing and quick rehiring.

“We have unanimously concluded that Sam and Greg are the right leaders for OpenAI,” said board Chair Bret Taylor, in a blog post. President Greg Brockman resigned after Altman was fired but rejoined when he was rehired.

The maker of ChatGPT also added three new members to its board, expanding it to eight. They are Sue Desmond-Hellman, former CEO of the Bil and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nicole Seligman, former general counsel at Sony, and Fidji Simo, CEO and chair of Instacart.

Last November, OpenAI convened a special committee to look into the ousting of Altman, hiring WilmerHale to conduct the investigation. The law firm examined more than 30,000 documents and interviewed dozens of people in OpenAI including the startup’s former board that fired Altman.

WilmerHale found that there was a “breakdown in trust” between the old board and Altman, that led to his firing on Nov. 17. The reason was not concerns about the safety and security of its AI models, pace of development, its finances or statements to investors.

Rather, “it was the consequence of a breakdown in the relationship and loss of trust between the prior board and Mr. Altman,” the law firm said, without being more specific.

Related:Sam Altman Returns as OpenAI CEO − to a New Board

When the old board fired Altman, they said the reason was his not being “consistently candid.”

WilmerHale said that the old board fired Altman to resolve internal management issues, not thinking this would “destabilize” the company. Also, they made the decision quickly, without telling key stakeholders (like Microsoft), without conducting a “full inquiry” and not giving Altman a chance to address their concerns.

After reviewing the findings, OpenAI said it has “full confidence” in the leadership of Altman and Brockman.

The startup also said it is adopting new corporate governance guidelines but did not disclose what they are. It is strengthening its conflict of interest policy as well - Altman has raised eyebrows after OpenAI bought chips from Rain AI in which he personally invested. OpenAI also is creating a hotline for anonymous reporting of issues by employees and contractors and also establishing additional board committees.

Read more about:

ChatGPT / Generative AI

About the Author(s)

Deborah Yao

Editor

Deborah Yao runs the day-to-day operations of AI Business. She is a Stanford grad who has worked at Amazon, Wharton School and Associated Press.

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