CEO says he is ‘taking time off’ after laying off hundreds last week


The CEO of digital mortgage company Better.com, whose abrupt message over Zoom last week laying off 900 employees before Christmas went viral, is taking time off from his job, according to a report from Business Insider.

According to an internal memo, Vishal Garg is “taking time off effective immediately,” the report said. The memo also referred to “very regrettable events over the last week.”

Garg’s indefinite hiatus from his company was first reported by Vice.

NBC News has not seen the memo. Media representatives for Better.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

About 900 employees learned that they had been laid off during a scheduled three-minute group Zoom call on Dec. 1.

“I come to you with not great news,” Garg said at the beginning of the meeting, according to a recording posted to TikTok.

“We are laying off about 15 percent of the company for a number of reasons — the market efficiency and performances, and productivity,” he said.

“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,” Garg continued. “Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”

He told employees that the decision to let them go was “challenging.”

“This is the second time in my career I’m doing this, and I do not want to do this. The last time I did it I cried,” Garg said. “Um, this time, I hope to be stronger.”

He told the hundreds of former employees that they would get about month’s pay and three months of benefits — all of which would be detailed in an email sent to their personal email addresses from human resources.

An employee who was laid off told NBC News this week his company-issued computer went dark shortly after the call ended. He didn’t get the email from human resources until hours later.

“I was sitting here thinking, ‘What the hell?’” said the employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

The way Garg chose to fire hundreds of people was jarring, the former employee said.

Garg, in a letter to his employees posted on the company’s website Tuesday, apologized, “I want to apologize for the way I handled the layoffs last week,” the letter said. “I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for the individuals who were affected and for their contributions to Better,” he wrote.

Garg wrote that he owns “the decision to do the layoffs” but admitted that he could have executed it better.

“I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse. I am deeply sorry and am committed to learning from this situation and doing more to be the leader that you expect me to be,” he wrote.

Better.com announced plans to go public in May, but the deal was delayed.

A day before the layoffs, the company received a $750 million cash infusion from its backers, Fortune and TechCrunch reported.

The employee who was laid off said it was an indication that the company needed “capital urgently.”

“That’s definitely not good no matter how they spin it,” he said.

Kevin Ryan, the company’s chief financial officer, framed the cash advance and the layoffs as a company win.

“Having to conduct layoffs is gut wrenching, especially this time of year, however a fortress balance sheet and a reduced and focused workforce together set us up to play offense going into a radically evolving homeownership market,” Ryan said in a statement.

Garg founded the company in 2014 “with the goal of re-engineering the mortgage process,” according to Better.com’s website. Garg wanted to make home buying faster, easier and less expensive.

He has faced controversy before. In an email to employees obtained by Forbes last year, he wrote: “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS and…DUMB DOLPHINS get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.”

Garg refused to participate in the Forbes profile, and it’s unclear what prompted the email. 

Better, which is based in New York, has offices in Charlotte, North Carolina; Oakland and Irvine, California; and Gurgaon, India.

 

 

 



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