After a month-long “break,” Better.com CEO Vishal Garg is back at the helm of the mortgage tech company he co-founded in 2016, according to an internal memo that circulated today that has been shared with TechCrunch.
In the memo, the Better board of directors said it was “moving forward with strong, dynamic CEO leadership.”
The move comes just weeks after the company announced it was laying off 900 people, or about 9% of its staff, via a Zoom meeting with the affected employees that drew widespread criticism from employees and even casual observers. In the 10 days after that meeting took place, the company’s reputation took a very public beating, with senior communications and public relations executives stepping down, memes of Garg circulating on TikTok and the CEO issuing a so-called apology for his behavior.
The company hired a crisis firm in the aftermath of the botched layoffs and, according to the internal memo from the board, Better will be “implementing a company-wide training program on ensuring a respectful workplace.”
The board also said that during this time off, Garg had been working closely with an executive coach so he could “reconnect with the values that make Better great.”
Following those discussions, direct input from an independent culture review and some organizational changes, the board said Garg would be officially resuming his full-time duties as CEO.
In the memo, the board said it was “confident in Vishal and in the changes he is committed to making to provide the type of leadership, focus and vision that Better needs at this pivotal time.”
Last month, it was a surprise to many that Garg was not asked to permanently resign. Some surmised that he had super-voting shares and thus could vote to keep himself in the role of CEO despite what others voted. But after digging into the S-4 filed by Better.com’s SPAC partner, Aurora Acquisition Corp. in November, TechCrunch’s own Alex Wilhelm and I realized that is not the case.
While laying off employees during Zoom calls is hardly unheard of as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced more remote work, Garg was viewed as being callous and unfeeling in his delivery. As we’ve previously reported, it didn’t help that he had also sent emails to his staff in the past berating them with insults. Last year, Forbes revealed the contents of an email to employees from Garg: “HELLO — WAKE UP BETTER TEAM. 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.”
Garg had also recently reportedly accused “at least 250″ terminated staffers of stealing from the company and customers by working just two hours a day
Better.com employees are reportedly not at all happy that Garg is not being asked to step down from his role as CEO, with one source telling TechCrunch that “everyone is upset, and many people have already quit or are planning to.”