The chief executive of New York-based online mortgage lender Better.com laid off some 900 employees during a now-viral Zoom call — then slammed the ex-workers for allegedly “stealing from our customers” by not being productive.
Vishal Garg, the company’s CEO, struck an unapologetic tone when announcing the mass firings to affected workers in a Zoom call, a recording of which was later posted on TikTok, YouTube and other social media accounts.
“This isn’t news that you’re going to want to hear … If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately,” he said, adding that he does “not want to do this.”
“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 on the call.
The 43-year-old said that the “market has changed” and that the company had to slim down to remain nimble enough to adapt to the evolving housing market, which appears to be cooling after a pandemic-boosted boom — though Garg didn’t mention on the call the company’s $750 million cash infusion it got from investors last week.
The CEO was later outed as the anonymous author of a scathing blog post that slammed Better.com employees on the professional network Blind.
“You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system?” the father-of-three wrote.
“They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated,” he added.
Garg confirmed to Fortune that he’s the author of the searing post.
On the Zoom call, Garg told the laid-off employees that the company would provide four weeks of severance and one month of full benefits, as well as other coverage as part of a package.
On the call, Garg suggested that low productivity in addition to the changing market conditions led to the layoffs.
Speaking to Fortune, he said that four weeks ago the firm started reviewing employee productivity data, including missed telephone call rates, number of inbound and outbound calls, employees showing up late to meetings with a customer, and other metrics.
“As we started to slow down our pace of hiring, we saw some alarming statistics and a number of our customers were not getting the service that they deserved from our teammates,” he said.
Garg reportedly has built a reputation for having demanding expectations of his employees and punishing them over the tiniest of details.
Office managers were once reportedly criticized for failing to keep the mini-fridge stocked with Fiji and Perrier water, according to Forbes.
“Why do we have biscotti here like this??” he once demanded from office managers.
In another email obtained by Forbes last year, Garg 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.”
At the same time, The Daily Beast reported earlier this year that one of his deputies, Elana Knoller, was given huge stock options that vested immediately, $8,000 per month for two homes and other perks.
Despite the favorable treatment, Knoller was eventually placed on administrative leave for bullying.
Better.com became a pandemic darling as city dwellers sought to flee to greener and larger spaces in the suburbs, fueling a boom in the housing market and associated lenders.
The company announced in May that it plans to go public through a SPAC, or special-purpose acquisition company, at a $7.7 billion valuation.