Aimee Picchi – CBS MoneyWatch
About 900 employees of real estate company Better.com were asked to attend a Zoom call on Wednesday. But rather than offering a holiday message to workers, CEO Vishal Garg delivered a 3-minute speech informing attendees they were “terminated effective immediately.”
Videos of the Zoom call have been posted on social media networks and YouTube, with a source familiar with the company verifying the authenticity of the recordings. In the video, Garg sits at a white table, wearing a business-casual outfit of slacks, a shirt, and a blue vest, and tells the workers that the “challenging decision” is his — and that it’s the second time he’s had to lay off workers.
“The last time I did it, I cried,” Garg confides to the fired employees. “This time I hope to be stronger.”
The Zoom call is sparking outrage on social media, with professionals on LinkedIn decrying Garg’s delivery as being “crass” and criticizing the announcement and its timing, coming just weeks before the holidays. On LinkedIn, fired workers are asking for leads on new jobs, while also expressing their surprise at the sudden terminations.
In the video, Garg says the layoffs impact 15% of the company, but he misspoke, according to the person familiar with the company, who said they impact about 9% of the company’s workforce. Officials at Better.com didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Vishal Garg CEO of Better.com fires 900 employees over Zoom meeting – footage by Power of Banana on YouTube
The layoffs may also have come as a surprise given that Better.com had received $750 million in funding just days before Garg fired the employees. The cash infusion is due to Better.com’s plan to go public through a so-called Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC, with a blank-check company known as Aurora and funds provided by investor SoftBank, according to TechCrunch.
Layoffs came “out of nowhere”
In a video on YouTube, one worker said the layoffs came “out of nowhere.” Christian Chapman, a former trainer at Better.com, noted that he and others were told “with a quick little video that basically said, ‘I don’t want to do this — you’re laid off.’ And then everything shut down and so that was my world yesterday.”
Chapman noted wryly that he worked up the courage to call his wife. “That’s just the news you want to hear right before Christmas is, ‘Hey, honey, I got laid off, don’t have any income.'”
Founded in 2016, Better.com is backed by the likes of Japanese investment company SoftBank and the financial services firms Goldman Sachs and Ally. The company sells mortgage services online, promising to help buyers find a rate within seconds and get approved for a mortgage within minutes.
Garg hinted on the call that business conditions had changed in the past year. “I wish we were thriving as enthusiastically as we were at the beginning of the year,” he said. “That’s not the case.”
He signed off by wishing the fired employee “the best of luck” in their next career moves.