Mortgage originator Better.com CEO Vishal Garg has apologized for his handling of recent layoffs by the company, in which he announced the firing of more than 900 employees over Zoom, then anonymously accusing them of being unproductive.
Days after video of the Zoom call showed the chief executive announcing the layoffs and accusing some staff of stealing from the company by wasting time, Garg said in a leaked email to employees that he “blundered the execution.”
“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 own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you.”
The executive said he is “deeply sorry and am committed to learning from this situation,” before saying staff would “talk more” at an upcoming meeting.
“I believe in you, I believe in Better, and I believe that working together we can make homeownership better together,” Garg concluded.
Garg previously confirmed to Fortune that he was behind an anonymous post that accused hundreds of the fired employees of stealing time. The comments appeared to be a reaction to an internal review of employee data, ranging from call logs to client-meeting attendance. Lack of productivity was cited as a reason for the layoffs.
This is not the first controversy for Garg. He has been accused of improper management of funds at prior startups and allegedly using some of that money to start Better.com, which launched in 2016. The CEO was also blamed for creating a hostile work environment.
One email from Garg previously obtained by Forbes read: “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.”
Earlier this year, Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank made a $500 million investment in Better.com, swelling the valuation of the mortgage lending startup to $6 billion. The company has plans to go public via a SPAC merger with Aurora Acquisition Corp.
But the fallout from the Zoom call and blog post has already begun. Insider reported that three top executives at the company have resigned in the wake of the layoffs. The recent turmoil undermines the reputation that the startup is trying to build as a cool startup shaking up an antiquated mortgage industry.
Garg says he came up with the idea for Better.com in 2012 after a failed attempt to buy his first home, on Manhattan’s East Side. In applying for a mortgage, he realized “that the way people buy homes in America is riddled with inefficient processes, outdated technology, and general frustration.”
[Fortune] — Holden Walter-Warner