Unpacking the Investigations Into OpenAI

Sam Altman’s ambitions include raising money from the Middle East to produce A.I. chips. Credit…Stringer/EPA, via Shutterstock

More questions for OpenAI

Sam Altman has been back as OpenAI’s C.E.O. for three months, running one of the world’s most important tech companies at the forefront of the artificial intelligence boom.

But a report by The Wall Street Journal that the S.E.C. is investigating whether Altman misled investors is a reminder that OpenAI and its hyper-ambitious chief face a level of scrutiny that could dent their global plans.

The S.E.C.’s inquiry arose in the wake of Altman’s brief ouster, and is tied to assertions by former OpenAI directors that he hadn’t been “consistently candid in his communications,” The Journal reported, citing unidentified sources. (It’s unclear whether the examination will lead to a full-blown investigation; the agency’s involvement was practically a given, considering the nature of the accusations.)

The S.E.C. isn’t the only regulator looking at the Altman drama: Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have also been asking questions, according to The Journal.

Meanwhile, the law firm WilmerHale is close to finishing its review of Altman, The Times reports. Altman had agreed to have outside lawyers review the circumstances of his brief exit; they have since interviewed OpenAI executives and directors. WilmerHale could deliver the findings to the company’s board — which no longer includes Altman — as soon as next month.

OpenAI is confronting more legal challenges. Digital media outlets, including Raw Story and The Intercept, sued the company on Wednesday in Manhattan federal court, saying that ChatGPT was trained on their work without permission or compensation. The case adds to a growing number of lawsuits by media companies (including The Times) and content creators about whether OpenAI’s tools infringed on their copyrights.

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