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‘My heart just sank’ says ex-employee who was laid off with 900 employees on Better.com Zoom call

An employee who was among the 900 workers fired via Zoom by the company’s heartless CEO but did not see said his work email and instant messaging were cut off within minutes of the cruel cut – and he had to use his personal social media accounts to get details for his ex-colleagues about the mass firing.

Better.com CEO Vishal Garg, 39, informed the 900 workers that they were terminated during a three-minute Zoom meeting on December 1.

‘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,’ Garg said. 

Christian Chapman, a former underwriter at the online mortgage business, said his computer screens went black moments after the Zoom call ended asr he started messaging colleagues in the company’s Slack channels.

Based in Texas, the father of five told CNN that he also quickly lost access to all of his work-related resources, including to his computer, phone and email. 

Christian Chapman, based in Texas, worked as an underwriter for the digital-mortgage business before being among the 900 who were suddenly fired by CEO Vishal Garg. Chapman, who has five children, told the BBC: ‘How do I tell them I don’t have a job at Christmas?’

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,' Garg abruptly announced on the call

'Your employment here is terminated effective immediately,' the CEO added

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,’ Garg abruptly announced on the call. ‘Your employment here is terminated effective immediately’

Chapman said he had to use Facebook Messenger to get details about the firing. 

The massive shutdown also prevented the fired workers from reading Garg’s follow-up email on the decision. Chapman said he had to wait hours before reading the letter, eventually sent to his personal email.

Chapman, who is the sole provider for his family, told CNN that he hadn’t anticipated Garg’s announcement to be about layoffs.

‘It was a surreal moment,’ he said. ‘It was one of those things that you don’t believe it’s going to happen.’ 

‘My heart just sank,’ Chapman told the BBC in a separate interview, adding that he is unsure on how to break the news to his five children.

‘How do I tell them I don’t have a job at Christmas?’

‘It was very callous,’ he later said, calling the experience ‘excruciating’ before adding  that he had a positive performance-review call with his manager prior to the layoffs being announced.

Chapman has worked in the mortgage business for almost 20 years and has been laid off by three other mortgage companies in the past. However, none of his previous firings were as ‘obtuse and dispassionate’ as this one, he said.

Meanwhile, in a leaked video shared by Business Insider, Garg told remaining staff of his ambition to create a ‘Better 2.0’, with a ‘learner, meaner, hungrier, workforce’, just half an hour after he announced the firings.   

He also later apologized in an email to employees, admitting he ‘failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for individuals who are affected and for their contributions to Better.’

He added: ‘I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you.

‘I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse.

‘I am deeply sorry and am committed to learning from the situation and doing more to be the leader that you expect me to be.’ 

One angry worker, who was fired, filmed the call and shared it online, complete with a moment where they cursed at the CEO as he confirmed the mass ‘termination’ of employees from the Manhattan-headquartered mortgage provider.

The unidentified male worker could be heard to say: ‘F**k you dude. Are you f**king kidding me?’

Garg, who has been accused of being ‘erratic’ by workers, later doubled-down in a scathing blog post which saw him lay into his staff for ‘stealing’ through laziness.

The father-of-three wrote on 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?’

‘They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated,’ he added.

Speaking to Fortune, Garg – who once threatened to staple a former business partner to a wall and burn him alive, according to court documents – confirmed he had made the comments under the anonymous username ‘uneducated’, but refused to back down.

‘I think they could have been phrased differently, but honestly the sentiment is there,’ he said.

Better.com is a Softbank-backed mortgage lender with a massive $7.7B valuation

Vishal Garg’s Better.com offers pre-approval on a mortgage in minutes.

Better.comis expected to have a valuation of $7.7 billion when it goes public

Better.comis expected to have a valuation of $7.7 billion when it goes public

It saw its share price soar during the pandemic as the saturated home buying market, coupled with low interest rates, saw thousands of new customers looking for fast ways to get a loan.

The Softbank-backed company announced in May it was going public through an SPAC and received $750 million in cash as part of the deal. 

The company is prepared to have more than $1 billion on its balance sheet, and it will go public with a $7.7B valuation.  

Earlier, he described in his Zoom call how hard it was for him to fire the staff and how he hoped he would not cry as he had done in the past.

‘This is the second time in my career I’m doing this and I do not do not want to do this,’ he said.

‘The last time I did it, I cried.

‘This time, I hope to be stronger.

‘We are laying off about 15% of the company for a number of reasons — the market, efficiency and performances and productivity,’ he told workers.

A firm spokesman later corrected the boss’s figure, and said that the actual proportion of staff who’d been laid off was nine per cent.

Garg told Fortune 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.

Staff said they were stunned by the move and criticized Garg for another ‘threatening’ companywide call he held after the layoffs were announced, saying that the performance of remaining employees would be closely monitored.

‘His tone was extremely harsh and threatening,’ one employee told Fortune.

Two others said that Garg warned next year would be a ‘bloodbath.’

‘It was just very strange,’ said one of the sources. ‘The comments were disturbing.’

Garg told Fortune that he did not threaten staff and that ‘there is no additional watching taking place,’ aside from that which is already required by the regulator.

However, he did admit the firm was looking more at productivity data.

He said his ‘bloodbath’ comment had been taken out of context and was a broader reference to the mortgage market.

Better's headquarters is 44,000 square feet of office space on the 59th floor of 3 World Trade Center in Manhattan

Better’s headquarters is 44,000 square feet of office space on the 59th floor of 3 World Trade Center in Manhattan

Better, which offers pre-approval on a mortgage in minutes, saw its share price soar during the pandemic as the saturated home buying market, coupled with low interest rates, saw thousands of new customers looking for fast ways to get a loan.

It has added 2,000 employees since Covid struck and was on target to bring in $800 million in revenue this year, according to The Information.

And despite the lay-offs it still has 9,000 staff across the US, India and the UK.

Garg told Fortune that the firm’s board and investors were ‘totally supportive’ about the job cuts and they way they were handled. He refused to say which board members or investors offered their support.

Two current employees and an ex-aide told the site that Garg was renowned for being ‘erratic’ on Better’s internal Slack messaging system and in company meetings.

‘If you are not interested in working hard,’ he wrote in one Slack message, ‘you need to find another place to show up everyday.’

The CEO is said to be demanding of his staff, right down to the smallest details.

Office managers were criticized for failing to keep the mini fridges filled with water from Fiji or Perrier.

Garg also insisted on bottles of Gerolsteiner, his sparkling beverage of choice, according to Forbes.

‘Why do we have biscotti here like this??’ he once demanded from office managers.

In one furious email obtained by Forbes, he wrote: ‘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.’

Better’s headquarters is 44,000 square feet of office space on the 59th floor of 3 World Trade Center in Manhattan +7

Better’s headquarters is 44,000 square feet of office space on the 59th floor of 3 World Trade Center in Manhattan

Garg’s apology to staff

Team —

I want to apologize for the way I handled the layoffs last week.

I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for individuals who are affected and for their contributions to Better.

I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you.

I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse. I am deeply sorry and am committed to learning from the situation and doing more to be the leader that you expect me to be.

At Better, your dedication, focus and expertise are essential in the vital work we are doing to unlock the value, joy and opportunity of homeownership for our customers across the country. I couldn’t be more grateful for all you are accomplishing for the customers we serve.

We will talk more at our upcoming All Hands meeting about what to expect for the year ahead. I hope you’ll join me for the discussion. We are also taking fast steps to make sure we are very transparent and aligned as a company on the goals for 2022, the metrics that matter most, and how we all can work together even better to serve our customers and achieve our mission.

I believe in you, I believe in Better, and I believe that working together can make homeownership better together.

Thank you.

In August, The Daily Beast reported that one of his closest executives, Elana Knoller, was given stocks potentially worth tens of millions of dollars, $8,000 per month for two homes and other perks.

Knoller was eventually placed on administrative leave for bullying.

The Daily Beast also reported that Garg told a former business partner that he was ‘going to staple him against a f**king wall and burn him alive.’

It comes as Better, which featured in the Forbes Fintech Top 50, hopes to go public before the end of the year.

It received $1.5 billion in debt and convertible notes earlier this week ahead of its planned debut.

Better, which is backed by Softbank, received a $750 million cash infusion last week, after announcing in May it was going public through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). The company now has a valuation of $7.7 billion.

Born in India, Garg moved to Queens when he was seven and went to Manhattan’s renowned Stuyvesant High School.

He showed an early business mindset, buying CliffsNotes and books which he sold to fellow students for a profit.

‘My superpower, I think, I was good at math and good at, like, being able to spot an opportunity,’ Garg said in a podcast in 2019.

Another teenage venture was buying clothes in thrift stores and then selling them for more on eBay.

However, a Better spokesman later confirmed this was not true because eBay wasn’t founded until after Garg left school.

He went on to study at New York University where he would meet his future business partner Raza Khan.

They founded online student loan provider MyRichUncle in 2000.

The business started with just a $30,000 investment and by 2007 had ballooned into a publicly traded company that handled more than $300 million worth of loans, making it one of the largest private loan providers in the US.

The financial crisis forced the company into a bankruptcy liquidation in 2007.

But the crash brought about by subprime mortgages inspired Khan and Garg to look into a new lending market.

Building on their algorithms developed at MyRichUncle, they set up a company called EIFC, which could identify toxic mortgages.

It was designed to help investors identify improperly issued mortgages to sue banks who were selling bad loans.

Although the early signs were promising, Khan told Forbes he noticed inconsistencies in the finances.

In 2013, he sued Garg claiming that the firm’s taxes had not been properly filed and that Garg had moved $3 million to his personal bank accounts.

The pair have since been involved in a protracted legal battle.

According to court documents, during one hearing in December 2019, Garg turned to Khan and said that he was ‘going to staple him against a f***ing wall and burn him alive.’

Garg later apologized during the deposition for letting his ’emotions run out of control.’

A Better spokesman told Forbes in 2020: ‘Lawsuits are an unfortunate fact of life for successful startups and their CEOs.’

He singled out Khan as a ‘very litigious former friend and business partner.’

The story of how Garg founded Better paints a brighter picture.

Garg told Forbes how he and his wife were still renting while she was pregnant with their second child.

‘We ended up losing a place that we wanted to buy to an all-cash buyer, because our mortgage process was so long and inefficient,’ he said.

Garg founded Better in 2014 with the concept to cut down the process and offer ‘pre-approval on your mobile phone in about 3 minutes.’

It would also skip the traditional borrower-paid fees, making it cheaper for consumers.

Once issued, Better would sell the mortgages to lenders like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Wells Fargo.

The concept has turned out to be a massive hit, perhaps no more so than during the pandemic as millennials sought to get onto the property ladder while saving thousands of dollar by working from home.

Better.com CEO Vishal Garg warned workers in ‘threatening’ emails that 2022 will be a ‘bloodbath’

Better.com's controversial CEO Vishal Garg, 43, fired 900 employees over a Zoom call claiming market fluctuations performance, and productivity. However, the mortgage lender, backed by Softbank, received a $750 million cash infusion last week, after announcing in May it was going public through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC)

Better.com’s controversial CEO Vishal Garg, 43, fired 900 employees over a Zoom call claiming market fluctuations performance, and productivity. However, the mortgage lender, backed by Softbank, received a $750 million cash infusion last week, after announcing in May it was going public through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC)

Two current employees and an ex-aide told Fortune that Garg was renowned for being ‘erratic’ on Better’s internal Slack messaging system and in company meetings. 

Garg told Fortune 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.

Staff criticized Garg for another ‘threatening’ companywide call he held after the layoffs were announced, saying that the performance of remaining employees would be closely monitored.  

‘His tone was extremely harsh and threatening,’ one employee told Fortune. Two others said that Garg warned next year would be a ‘bloodbath.’

‘It was just very strange,’ said one of the sources. ‘The comments were disturbing.’

In another message, on Slack, Garg wrote: ‘If you are not interested in working hard you need to find another place to show up everyday.’

Office managers were also criticized for failing to keep the mini fridges filled with water from Fiji or Perrier.

Garg also insisted on bottles of Gerolsteiner, his sparkling beverage of choice, according to Forbes. 

‘Why do we have biscotti here like this??’ he once demanded from office managers. 

In one furious email obtained by Forbes, he wrote: ‘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.’

In a dispute with a former business partner, Raza Khan, he accused Garg of not properly filing the firm’s taxes and claimed that he had moved $3 million to his personal bank accounts.

The pair have since been involved in a protracted legal battle.

According to court documents, during one hearing in December 2019, Garg turned to Khan and said that he was ‘going to staple him against a f***ing wall and burn him alive.’ 


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