OpenAI CEO Altman apologizes after internal documents reveal 'aggressive tactics' used against departing employees



It was reported that OpenAI had asked former employees to sign a document requesting that they 'not criticize OpenAI,' and that if they refused to sign, they would be forced to give up their existing shares. In response to this report, CEO Sam Altman and other executives apologized, and OpenAI has begun to improve the situation.

OpenAI NDAs: Leaked documents reveal aggressive tactics toward former employees - Vox

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On May 18, 2024, the foreign media Vox reported that the document that employees leaving OpenAI were required to sign contained a clause 'prohibiting slander against the company.' The document obtained by Vox stated that 'if a departing employee refuses to sign this document or criticizes OpenAI in violation of the document, he or she will lose all vested interests acquired during his or her tenure.'

Daniel Kokotajuro, a former employee of OpenAI's Super Alignment team, said in an Internet forum, 'To be clear, I'm not yet completely free to speak (confidentiality obligations remain) because I signed it when I joined the company, but I didn't have any additional obligations when I left. I don't know how much the shares I gave up were valued at, but I think it was at least about 85% of my family's net worth. But we're doing well, so please don't worry.' He further said, 'I wanted to maintain the ability to criticize the company in the future,' revealing that he refused to sign the documents when he left.

In response to this report, CEO Altman said on X (formerly Twitter), 'We have never taken back anyone's vested interests, and we will not do so if they do not sign a separation agreement or agree to a non-disparagement clause. Vested interests are vested interests and that's it. Our previous separation documents had a clause about the possibility of revoking stock. We did not take anything back, but that should not have been stated in any document,' and apologized after acknowledging the existence of the reported documents. Furthermore, he called on former employees who signed such documents to contact him.

In a message to employees, OpenAI's chief strategy officer (CSO) Jason Kwon said, 'The non-disparagement clause was added to the departure documents around 2019, but the team only found out about it about a month ago. It's my fault that it took us so long to figure this out.'

However, Vox criticized Altman and Kwon's apology for not doing enough to remedy the situation, and pointed out that Altman could not have been unaware of the situation.

According to Vox, the resignation documents in question were signed by Kwon, CSO, and Diane Yun, OpenAI's vice president of human resources. In addition, the incorporation document for the holding company that will manage OpenAI's shares includes a statement that 'it gives the company the power to collect shares from former employees or block the sale of shares,' and this incorporation document was signed by Altman on April 10, 2023. For this reason, Vox calls into question the claims by Altman and Kwon that they were unaware of the non-disparagement clause into doubt.

OpenAI then sent a statement to Vox saying, 'We are making important updates to our resignation process. We do not and will not take away any vested interests if you do not sign resignation papers. We are removing non-disparagement clauses from our general resignation documents and will release former employees from any existing obligations unless a non-disparagement clause is mutually agreed upon. We will convey this message to former employees. This matter does not reflect our values or the type of company we aspire to be.' The statement also revealed that it has already contacted former employees.

Vox said that OpenAI's clarification of the specific measures was a big step forward from when CEO Altman and CSO Kwon apologized. However, they also argued that in order to fundamentally resolve the issue, management needs to acknowledge responsibility for the policy and promise not to repeat the same mistake again.

in Note, Posted by log1i_yk