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OpenAI changes exit contracts so employees can leave without having equity revoked

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Copyright Jon Gambrell/Copyright 2023 The AP.
Copyright Jon Gambrell/Copyright 2023 The AP.
By Pascale Davies
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A clause in exit paperwork meant they could have their equity in OpenAI taken away if they did not sign NDAs.

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ChatGPT maker OpenAI is changing its exit contract, which could have taken away ex-employees’ vested equity in the company if they criticised their former employer.

Vox News reported the contract terms and non-disclosure agreement (NDA) paperwork on Friday. It said it had viewed the contract in question and reported that employees could “lose all vested equity they earned during their time at the company, which is likely worth millions of dollars” if they didn’t sign a nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreement.

A day later, the company CEO Sam Altman confirmed that the contract existed but that OpenAI had never "clawed back anyone's vested equity".

"This is on me and one of the few times I've been genuinely embarrassed running OpenAI; I did not know this was happening and I should have," Altman wrote in a post on X.

He said that the team was in the process of fixing the paperwork and former employees could contact Altman if they were worried.

The news follows two high-profile company exits, including the co-founder and former chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who did not say why he left OpenAI.

The superalignment team's co-lead Jan Leike also resigned last week and originally held back on the reason why.

A day later he said it was because OpenAI’s "safety culture and processes have taken a backseat to shiny products".

One former employee, Daniel Kokotajlo, quit OpenAI in April and posted publicly that he left due to "losing confidence that [the company] would behave responsibly around the time of AGI".

He implied publicly on a blog that he gave up what would have been a large sum of money to leave without signing anything.

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