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US SEC probes whether OpenAI investors were misled, WSJ reports

54th WEF annual meeting in Davos

(Reuters) -The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is scrutinizing internal communications by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman as part of an investigation into whether the company's investors were misled, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The regulator has been seeking internal records from current and former officials and directors in the ChatGPT creator and sent a subpoena to the company in December, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The move followed former OpenAI board's decision in November to fire Altman as CEO and oust him from the board. The board of the non-profit startup at the time said it "concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities."

The Journal said some sources described the investigation as a predictable response to the former board's claim in its November statement. The report added that the SEC has not pointed to any specific statement or communication by Altman that it has deemed misleading, citing one source.

Altman returned as CEO just days after his ouster, with OpenAI also unveiling a new initial board with former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor as chair.

SEC officials in New York have asked that some senior OpenAI executives preserve internal documents as they conduct the investigation, the WSJ reported.

The probe comes as Altman is reportedly in talks to raise billions of dollars for a chip venture. OpenAI has also recently completed a deal that values the Microsoft-backed startup at $80 billion or more, the New York Times reported earlier this month.

The SEC declined to comment on the possible investigation, while OpenAI and Microsoft did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

(Reporting by Utkarsh Shetti in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza, Rashmi Aich, Sonia Cheema and Shweta Agarwal)