Vishal Garg, the Better CEO who fired 900 over Zoom, is back

Vishal Garg is returning to his «full-time duties» as CEO, according to a letter sent to employees Tuesday from the company’s board of directors. The letter noted that Garg used a leave of absence to «reflect on his leadership, reconnect with the values that make Better great and work closely with an executive coach.»

The online mortgage company’s letter to employees, which was obtained by CNN Business, also said an outside law firm reviewed Better’s workplace culture and is implementing changes, including adding more managers and a chief human resources officer.

In December 2021, Garg held a video call in which he laid off 9% of Better’s workforce. «If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,» Garg said. «Your employment here is terminated, effective immediately.»

The CEO had promised a follow-up email from HR — but one affected employee told CNN Business he immediately lost access to his company computer, phone, email and messaging including Slack channels.

Garg was took a leave of absence soon after the call. At the time, Better said it was hiring a third-party firm to do a «leadership and cultural assessment,» whose recommendations «will be taken into account to build a long-term sustainable and positive culture at Better.»

‘Angst, distraction and embarrassment’

In his own letter to employees Tuesday, Garg wrote that «I understand how hard these past few weeks have been. I am deeply sorry for the angst, distraction and embarrassment my actions have caused. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where we are as a company and the type of leadership Better needs…and the leader I want to be.»

It’s a tonal departure from a post that he wrote a few weeks ago on the professional network Blind, in which he accused the fired employees of «stealing» from their colleagues and customers by being unproductive and only working two hours a day, according to Fortune, which confirmed those sentiments in a later interview with the CEO.

Garg had previously apologized for how he handled the layoffs, however, in a December 7 letter to employees in which he said he «a difficult situation worse.»

He added: «I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for the individuals who were affected and for their contributions to Better. I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you.»

Better.com is valued at $6.9 billion, earning it so-called unicorn status. The company ranked No. 1 on LinkedIn’s Top Startups list in 2021 and 2020. The Softbank-backed mortgage lender has been trying to go public, although it has delayed those plans because of the fallout from Garg’s handling of the layoffs, according to Bloomberg.

The board’s letter Tuesday also said Raj Date and Dinesh Chopra had resigned from the board, and that «while we do not comment on individuals’ determinations to leave the board, Raj and Dinesh did not resign because of any disagreement with Better.»

— CNN Business’ Ramishah Maruf contributed to this report.