The CEO of digital mortgage firm Better.com, who fired 900 employees on a Zoom call last week, is taking time off from the company while it conducts a “leadership and cultural assessment,” according to an email to employees from the board of directors. As first reported by Motherboard, the board’s email says following “the very regrettable events over the last week,” CEO Vishal Garg will be taking time off “effective immediately,” and Better CFO Kevin Ryan will manage day-to-day operations.
Better, which Garg founded in 2012, has been in the spotlight after he held a Zoom call with 900 employees on December 3rd to inform them they were losing their jobs. “If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,” Garg reportedly said on the call. He lamented that it was not the first time he had to conduct layoffs: “The last time I did it, I cried, this time I hope to be stronger.” The video call was captured by Better employees and widely circulated on social media. It has since been taken down.
Garg later sent a message to Better employees apologizing for how he handled the layoffs. “I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for the individuals who were affected, and for their contributions to Better,” Garg wrote. “I realize that the way I communicated the news made a difficult situation worse.”
Following the news of the layoffs, reports of Garg’s past insensitive comments and behavior began to trickle out; Motherboard reported he once referred to a top investor in Better as “sewage” and reportedly told Better employees that instead of taking a day off for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, it was better for them to work and earn the company “capital, and therefore our freedom.”
Bloomberg has reported that Better pushed back its planned SPAC, which was supposed to close in the fourth quarter. On November 30th, Aurora Acquisition Corp. and SoftBank amended the terms of their financing agreement with Better, giving the mortgage company a cash infusion of about $750 million. Bloomberg notes that the day after the new SPAC terms were announced, Garg fired the 900 workers.
Better did not reply to a request for comment from The Verge on Friday.