Altman ends OpenAI’s “equity claw back” for ex-employees who criticize the company

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Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, has addressed concerns regarding the company’s exit agreements, which reportedly included nondisparagement clauses that could threaten vested equity for departing employees. The issue came to light following the high-profile departures of AI safety researchers Jan Leike and Ilya Sutskever from the company.

According to reports by Vox News, the nondisparagement agreements would prevent former employees from criticizing OpenAI or even acknowledging the existence of such clauses. The revelation sparked a wave of scrutiny over OpenAI’s contractual practices, particularly regarding how they handle the rights and compensations of their workforce.

In response to the controversy, Altman took to social media platform X to clarify that while the clause was indeed part of the exit agreements, it has never been enforced to “claw back” any vested equity from former employees. He expressed embarrassment over the situation, admitting that he was unaware of the clause’s inclusion in the contracts and that it would be removed going forward.

The clarification comes amidst broader discussions in the tech community about corporate culture and the ethical management of AI development companies. Altman’s openness in addressing the issue reflects a move towards transparency, aligning with broader expectations of tech leaders to uphold high standards of governance and employee treatment. The change in policy marks a significant shift in how OpenAI will handle departures and equity agreements in the future.

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