More than 900 employees of mortgage company Better.com were invited to a Zoom webinar last Wednesday, where CEO Vishal Garg announced they would all be fired effective immediately.
CNN Business reviewed a recording of the call, in which the employees were fired just weeks before the holidays.
“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,” Garg said during the meeting. “Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”
He also told the employees that they would be receiving an email from the human resources department detailing their benefits and severance.
Garg then told the people on the call that market efficiency, performance, and productivity were the reasons they were being fired. Fortune reported that days after the firing, Garg “posted a series of messages seen by Fortune on an anonymous professional network,” in which he accused the fired employees of “stealing” from coworkers and customers due to their unproductivity. The outlet reported that he claimed at least some of those who were fired had only worked two hours a day.
CNN reported that the call firing the employees was “short and emotionless.”
“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 during the call, apparently showing no emotion.
The outlet also reported that the diversity, equity, and inclusion recruiting team was among the fired employees, a rarity for companies these days, who often hire more and more people to improve diversity, with little to no discernible effect.
Better CFO Kevin Ryan told CNN that “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,” he added.
CNN reported that Garg’s leadership has been questioned before:
Garg has been involved in controversy before, as evidenced by an email he sent to staff that was obtained by Forbes.
“You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS… SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME,” he wrote.
The Daily Beast reported in August that one of Garg’s most “loyal lieutenants” received massive perks, such as millions of dollars worth of stock options that could be vested immediately, not comparable to other employees. That person was later placed on administrative leave for bullying.
Forbes reported in November 2020 that “Ongoing lawsuits accuse Garg or entities he controls of improper and even fraudulent activity at two prior business ventures, and of misappropriating ‘tens of millions of dollars.’”
Goldman Sachs, which invested in three rounds of funding for Better, accused Garg of “flagrant self-dealing,” but quietly dropped its legal claims in October 2020.
The recent layoffs amount to 9% of Better.com’s workforce.