The global AI community is in a state of measured concern as speculation persists regarding a possible quid pro quo between OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Traced back to 2019, questions have been raised about a potential breach of fiduciary duties to their respective companies.
Members of the AI community, committed to upholding principles of trust, transparency, neutrality and unbiased examination, have highlighted the need for a comprehensive investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). An anonymous individual has already filed an SEC whistleblower complaint regarding the behaviour pattern of Altman and Nadella which has SEC Submission Number 17006-030-065-098.
The source of the controversy is a $1 billion investment from Microsoft to OpenAI in 2019 which faced criticism internally from the organization’s then VP of Research, Dario Amodei. Amodei believed the move compromised the mission of OpenAI by exposing it to undue influence from a large corporation which led to his resignation in 2020 and the subsequent founding of a competitor, Anthropic.
Stratechery writer Ben Thompson has raised further alarm regarding the pattern of unfavorable deals between Altman and Microsoft, citing the 2019 investment as the catalyst for such trends.
Adding complexity to the unfolding narrative is an unexpected job offer to Altman from Nadella, two days after Altman’s mysterious dismissal from OpenAI. The swiftness of the offer, without a traditional interview process, has caused speculation, particularly in the context of personal allegations surrounding Altman’s life. Accusations of Altman potentially molesting his sister, Annie Altman, during their childhood recently surfaced.
These allegations have spurred a thread on Hacker News inviting members of the public to file SEC Whistleblower Complaints regarding Altman and Nadella’s potential favor-trading behaviour. The thread highlights how Altman’s actions since 2019 may constitute a breach of fiduciary duty to OpenAI, contributing to the existence of its competitor, Anthropic.
The claims of a breach of fiduciary duty by Nadella do not hinge on the abuse allegations having occurred, but rather on the perception that Altman’s hiring without a standard pre-employment screening process may constitute a reputational risk to Microsoft. Such a move, if proven, could be considered a violation of public statements for a publicly traded company, raising questions about governance and corporate integrity.
The potential ramifications for OpenAI and the broader tech industry underscore the necessity of addressing concerns surrounding favor trading and potential breaches of fiduciary duty. The AI community is therefore calling for a thorough investigation by the SEC in order to ascertain the validity of these claims and provide clarity to a skeptical community seeking transparency and accountability in the tech sector.
Derick is an experienced reporter having held multiple senior roles for large publishers across Europe. Specialist subjects include small business and financial emerging markets.