Better.com CEO Vishal Garg is “taking time off effective immediately,” the digital mortgage company’s board of directors said in an email on Friday morning. The company has also hired an outside firm to “do a leadership and cultural assessment,” according to the email.
Here is the email the board of directors sent out Friday morning:
Vishal and the Board wanted to provide Better employees an update given the very regrettable events over the last week.
Vishal will be taking time off effective immediately. During this interim period Kevin Ryan as CFO will be managing the day-to-day decisions of the company and he will be reporting to the Board. As well, the Board has engaged an independent 3rd party firm to do a leadership and cultural assessment. The recommendations of this assessment will be taken into account to build a long-term sustainable and positive culture at Better. We have much work to do and we hope that everyone can refocus on our customers and support each other to continue to build a great company and a company we can be proud of.
Better Board of Directors
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Garg faced national criticism last week after he laid off 900 of his employees in a one-day video chat. “If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,” Garg told the employees.
In a digital town hall following the layoffs, he struck an even more aggressive tone with those remaining. “You will not be allowed to fail twice. You will be encouraged to fail once. But not allowed to fail twice. Not meeting deadlines will not be acceptable,” he said.
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Later, on the anonymous tech company-focused social media forum Blind, Garg said the blame lay with the laid-off employees, alleging without proof that “at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking in 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system,” essentially “stealing” from customers and the company. (Numerous former employees have since told Motherboard the comment offended them.)
Three top Better employees resigned from the company after the layoffs, and Garg apologized to staff, saying he “failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for individuals who are affected and for their contributions to Better.”
The company had been preparing to go public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, after receiving a cash infusion of $750 million from Aurora Acquisition Corp. and SoftBank, but has decided to delay the merger since it became a focus of national attention.
Better, a digitally oriented fintech startup that offers a range of creative services in areas like mortgage lending and title and homeowners insurance, had just been listed as LinkedIn’s top U.S. startup in September, the second year in a row it received the designation.
As Motherboard reported this week, Garg’s temperament has been an issue repeatedly in the past. He has called a top investor “sewage” and told employees that rather than take Indigenous Peoples' Day off, their time was better served earning the company “capital, and therefore our freedom.”