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Service Corporation International; Analysis To Aid Public Comment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission.

ACTION:

Proposed consent agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis To Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint that accompanies the consent agreement and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before June 19, 2000.

ADDRESSES:

Comments should be directed to: FTC/Office of the Secretary, Room 159, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Harold Kirtz or Andrea Foster, Federal Trade Commission, Southeast Region, Suite 5M35, Midrise Bldg., 60 Forsyth St., S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303. (404) 656-1357.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to Section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46 and Section 2.34 of the Commission's Rules of Practice (16 CFR 2.34) notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis To Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for May 18, 2000), on the World Wide Web, at “http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​formal.htm. A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room H-130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Start Printed Page 35644Washington, DC 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-3627.

Public comment is invited. Comments should be directed to: FTC/Office of the Secretary, Room 159, 6000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580. Two paper copies of each comment should be filed, and should be accompanied, if possible by a 31/2 inch diskette containing an electronic copy of the comment. Such comments or views will be considered by the Commission and will be available for inspection and copying at its principal office in accordance with Section 4.9(b)(6)(ii) of the Commission's Rules of Practice (16 CFR 4.9(b)(6)(ii)).

Analysis of Proposed Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission has accepted an agreement for public comment from Service Corporation International (“SCI”) designed to remedy the anticompetitive effects arising from SCI's 1994 acquisition of the LaGrone Funeral Home (“LaGrone”) in Roswell, New Mexico. SCI, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is the nation's largest chain of funeral homes and cemeteries. LaGrone, at the time of the acquisition, operated two funeral homes in New Mexico.

At the time of the acquisition, there were only two funeral homes operating in Roswell, New Mexico. SCI owned the Ballard Funeral Home. LaGrone owned the remaining funeral home. The acquisition gave SCI a monopoly in the provision of funeral services in Roswell. Funeral services include transporting the deceased from the place of death to the funeral home, embalming and otherwise preparing the body for burial, providing a casket, holding a viewing or other ceremony, and transporting the body to the cemetery or crematorium. Since the acquisition, no new entry into the provision of funeral services in Roswell has occurred. After the acquisition, prices for funeral services increased in Roswell.

On September 28, 1999, prompted by the Commission's investigation of the LaGrone acquisition, SCI sold the Ballard Funeral Home to Sentry Group Services, Inc. (“Sentry”). Sentry, a privately-held company, owns and operates 37 funeral homes in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado. Provident Services, Inc. (“Provident”), SCI's financial subsidiary, provided financing for Sentry's acquisition.[1]

To ensure that competition is fully restored in Roswell, the Commission's proposed Consent Order requires that, if SCI acquires the Ballard Funeral Home pursuant to a default on Sentry's loan with Provident, SCI must divest Ballard to a Commission-approved buyer within 90 days. In the event SCI does not accomplish the divestiture within 90 days, the proposed Consent Order provides that the Commission may appoint a trustee to divest Ballard. Moreover, the proposed Consent Order prohibits Provident from sharing information obtained from Sentry with SCI.

The proposed Consent Order also provides that, for a period of ten years, SCI must give prior notice to the Commission of any proposed acquisition of a funeral home serving Chaves County, New Mexico, where Roswell is located.

The proposed Consent Order has been placed on the public record for thirty days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. The purpose of this analysis is to invite and facilitate public comment concerning the proposed Consent Order in order to aid the Commission in its determination of whether to make the proposed Consent Order final. It is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the proposed Consent Order, nor is it intended to modify the terms in any way. After thirty days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make the proposed Consent Order final.

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By direction of the Commission.

Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Footnotes

1.  Provident is kept separate and distinct from the operating divisions of SCI. Because there are unique financing needs in the funeral industry, Provident provides loan services for many transactions, including the construction or acquisition of funeral homes by a number of SCI's competitors. Consequently, Provident's loan agreement includes a provision guaranteeing the confidentiality of information provided to Provident by a borrowing funeral home operator.

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[FR Doc. 00-13963 Filed 6-2-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-U