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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Better.com Head of Sales Who Alleged Fraud Was Busy Skiing While Business Sink: Sources

A former executive who accused Better.com of forging his books was a cunning slacker who was more interested in skiing and sharing photos of her pups than she was in propping up the embattled online mortgage lender’s business, according to court documents. explosives and interviews with former presidents. colleagues.

Sarah Pierce, a 28-year-old former head of sales at Better.com, alleged in a lawsuit last month that CEO Vishal Garg misrepresented the company’s business metrics to ensure the company’s plan to go public through a SPAC merger – an outage of an $8 billion deal that has yet to close.

The lawsuit made headlines when Pierce claimed that Garg — who infamously laid off more than 900 employees over a Zoom call last year — once said the company’s sales would improve because “President Biden will die of COVID.”

But a motion to drop the case last week painted a harsh picture of the Ivy League graduate, who resigned in February. The company claimed that Pierce hired 1,000 new employees to help boost its sales figures, even as she was interviewed for another job and blamed her mismanagement for putting the company $400 million behind its 2021 sales targets.

Sarah Pierce
Sarah Pierce told her team members that she was more focused on skiing than her sales job, according to Slack messages.
Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Loss of revenue was one of the main reasons for Garg’s now-infamous Zoom call, in which he laid off nearly 1,000 employees just before Christmas, a source close to the situation said.

“If Pierce had done his job, the layoffs would not have affected 900 people,” the source believes.

Interviews with former colleagues also suggest that Pierce — who reportedly made nearly $1 million a year before his departure and, according to court documents, had earned enough income and stock options to buy a sprawling Aspen ski lodge, Colorado for $11.50. million in May 2021 – had left long before the mass layoffs.

According to Slack messages analyzed by The Post, Pierce bragged that he wasn’t working and routinely ignored emails or sent pictures of puppies to his co-workers instead of answering their questions.

When one of Pierce’s direct reports asked her how she was managing a busy day of calls, Pierce responded by saying she was going out to “read a book”, according to messages analyzed by The Post.

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The situation only worsened after the video of Garg’s cold call on Zoom went viral, resulting in a loss of morale and a mass exodus of executives.

Aspen
Pierce shelled out $11.5 million for a sprawling cabin in Aspen, Colorado, according to court documents.
Google Earth

“GUYS, HOW WE WORK TODAY. no,” Pierce wrote in a Slack message reviewed by The Post, sent to his team just days after the layoffs.

When one of her colleagues reminded her that she had an assignment to do, she joked, “Oh yeah…[der].”

Pierce’s attorney reacted to the incendiary allegations on Friday, calling them a classic case of “blaming and discrediting the victim.”

“The attempt to attack Ms. Pierce and mischaracterizing her performance at Better is integral to the defendants’ attempts to avoid, at all costs, litigating this case on its merits,” his attorney Neal Brickman told The Post. “EM. Pierce was a high-performing executive at Better who was consistently praised and rewarded for her work, until she denounced Garg’s illegal activities and his attempt to blame her for the disastrous consequences of the decisions he – and he alone – took.”

Vishal Garg
Vishal Garg, CEO of Better.com, laid off 900 employees at once via a Zoom call.

Pierce attended high school in upscale Port Washington, Long Island, and graduated from Columbia before joining Better.com in 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile. She quickly rose through the ranks and in August 2020 was promoted to head of sales.

The COVID outbreak helped expand business as many city residents moved from urban centers or refinanced their homes because of low mortgage rates.

In July, she was again promoted by Garg to head of sales and operations – the functional equivalent of COO – earning a base salary of $1 million a year with the possibility of raising an additional $1 million in bonuses, sources said. .

That same month, it set a lofty goal of making 200,000 loans and added 1,000 new employees to its sales force, even as leadership warned it against building too quickly, Better.com claimed in court documents.

Brickman said the overly ambitious mortgage target was an aspirational internal projection promoted only by Garg and that it was his decision to “over-hire” 1,000 new employees.

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“EM Pierce repeatedly advised Mr. Garg that it was unrealistic and that the company would be lucky to originate 165,000 new mortgages,” the attorney said.

Better.com Signal
Garg’s cold call on Zoom went viral, resulting in a loss of morale and a mass exodus of executives.
better.com

Brickman also denied claims that Pierce had “checked out”. There was a weekly “market call” meeting with Pierce’s team, the finance team and Garg, where the company’s performance and metrics were presented and discussed, he said.

“There are over 1,200 pages of material presented at these weekly meetings, attended each week by Ms. Pierce,” Brickman said.

In November, Pierce assured management at an executive meeting that he would hit the 200,000 loan target, the company said. But in December it became clear that the loans had not materialized and the company would lose $400 million in revenue.

Better.com ended the year with a total loss of $200 million, which led to massive layoffs.

Behind the scenes, Better.com’s board decided that Pierce needed more oversight and the company would hire a COO to keep an eye on the sales group, sources with knowledge say.

When Pierce learned of the hire, she resigned and demanded that the company pay her $36 million for her equity stake and keep her as a consultant for $2 million a year, according to court documents.

His bombastic lawsuit alleged that Garg’s and the company’s “treatment of her constituted unlawful retaliation, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

A trial date for the next phase of the court battle has not yet been set.

“We thank Sarah for her early contributions to the company when we were still a young start-up. We are proud to have attracted senior talent from Match Group, Ripple and LendingTree who can guide us through our big growth phase,” a Better.com spokesperson told The Post on Friday.

“As Better matures, our experienced team of professionals is focused on expanding our suite of innovative products. Together, we will continue to build on Better’s mission to empower customers on their home ownership journey.”

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