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Service Corporation International; Analysis of the Agreement Containing Consent Orders 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 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 December 28, 2009.

ADDRESSES:

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form. Comments should refer to “SCI Palm, File No. 091 0138” to facilitate the organization of comments. Please note that your comment — including your name and your state — will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including on the publicly accessible FTC website, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm).

Because comments will be made public, they should not include any sensitive personal information, such as an individual’s Social Security Number; date of birth; driver’s license number or other state identification number, or foreign country equivalent; passport number; financial account number; or credit or debit card number. Comments also should not include any sensitive health information, such as medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, comments should not include any “[t]rade secret or any commercial or financial information which is obtained from any person and which is privileged or confidential. . . .,” as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and Commission Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2). Comments containing material for which confidential treatment is requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).1

Because paper mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening, please consider submitting your comments in electronic form. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted by using the following weblink on: (https://public.commentworks.com/​ftc/​sci-palm) and following the instructions on the web-based form. To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on the web-based form at the weblink: (https://public.commentworks.com/​ftc/​sci-palm). If this Notice appears at (http://www.regulations.gov/​search/​index.jsp), you may also file an electronic comment through that website. The Commission will consider all comments that regulations.gov forwards to it. You may also visit the FTC website at (http://www.ftc.gov/​) to read the Notice and the news release describing it.

A comment filed in paper form should include the “SCI Palm, File No. 091 0138” reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

The Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”) and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments that it receives, whether filed in paper or electronic form. Comments received will be available to the public on the FTC website, to the extent practicable, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm). As a matter of discretion, the Commission makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC website. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC’s privacy policy, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​privacy.shtm).

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Goldie V. Walker (202-326-2919), Bureau of Competition, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580.

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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(f), and § 2.34 the Commission 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 Start Printed Page 65128agreement, 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 November 25, 2009), on the World Wide Web, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​actions.shtm). A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. All comments should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before the date specified in the DATES section.

Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

I. Introduction

The Federal Trade Commission (“Commission”) has accepted, subject to final approval, an Agreement Containing Consent Orders (“Consent Agreement”) from Service Corporation International (“SCI”) that will completely remedy the anticompetitive effects that would likely result from SCI’s proposed acquisition of Palm Mortuary, Inc. (“Palm”). Under the terms of the proposed Consent Agreement, SCI is required to divest a cemetery, Davis Memorial Park, an associated funeral home in the Las Vegas, Nevada, metropolitan area, rights to the Davis trade name, and the pre-need service contracts relating to both the associated Davis Funeral Home and a second Davis Funeral Home owned by SCI in the Las Vegas area.

The proposed Consent Agreement has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days to solicit comments from interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the proposed Consent Agreement and will decide whether it should withdraw from the proposed Consent Agreement, modify it, or make it final.

SCI, doing business as Alderwoods (Nevada) Inc., and Palm entered into an agreement for SCI to acquire 100 percent of Palm’s outstanding voting securities on August 5, 2009. The Commission’s Complaint alleges that the proposed acquisition, if consummated, would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 18, and Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45, as amended, by lessening competition in the provision and sale of cemetery services in the Las Vegas, Nevada, metropolitan area.

II. The Parties

SCI is a public corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Texas, with its office and principal place of business located at 1929 Allen Parkway, Houston, Texas 77019. SCI currently is the third largest provider of funeral home and cemetery services in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, where SCI operates two funeral homes and one funeral home and cemetery combination facility.

Palm is a privately-held corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Nevada, with its office and principal place of business located at 1325 N. Main Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101. In the Las Vegas metropolitan area, Palm operates five funeral home and cemetery combination facilities, three standalone funeral homes, and one mausoleum, making it the largest provider in the area of both funeral home and cemetery services.

III. The Complaint

According to the Commission’s proposed Complaint, the relevant product market in which SCI and Palm compete is the provision and sale of cemetery services in the Las Vegas, Nevada, metropolitan area. Cemetery services include the traditional products and services offered by perpetual care cemeteries, including burial spaces, opening and closing of graves, memorials and burial vaults, mausoleum spaces, cemetery maintenance and upkeep, and advance disposition planning.

Concentration in the market for cemetery services in the Las Vegas area is very high, and the proposed acquisition would further increase concentration levels. Post-acquisition, the combined entity will have a 76 percent share in the cemetery services market.2 Post-acquisition, the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (“HHI”) for cemetery services will be 6261, and the acquisition will increase HHI levels by 1876.

According to the Commission’s proposed Complaint, entry into the cemetery services market is unlikely to be timely, likely, or sufficient to prevent anticompetitive effects in the Las Vegas area. Entry would be difficult because of the limited availability of geographically-desirable land, zoning regulations and other statutory restrictions, and high sunk costs. An entrant would also need to build a customer base in the face of competition from well-established cemeteries that are not capacity constrained and have long-standing reputations and heritage traditions in the community.

Finally, the proposed Complaint alleges that the proposed Acquisition will eliminate significant competition between SCI and Palm in the highly concentrated cemetery services market and increase the likelihood that SCI would be able to unilaterally raise prices or exercise market power through coordinated interaction among competitors.

IV. The Consent Agreement

The proposed Consent Agreement would preserve competition completely in the relevant market alleged in the Complaint by requiring that SCI divest to a Commission-approved acquirer the Davis combination cemetery/funeral home facility, rights to the Davis trade name, and all the pre-need service contracts associated with the Davis combination facility and with a second Davis funeral home in the Las Vegas metropolitan area (collectively the “Divestiture Business”). Divestiture of the pre-need service contracts associated with a second Davis funeral home in the Las Vegas area is to help ensure the competitiveness and viability of the Divestiture Business.

The proposed Consent Agreement requires that the divestiture occur no later than ninety (90) days after SCI consummates its acquisition of Palm. If SCI divests the assets during the public comment period, and if, at the time the Commission decides to make the Order final, the Commission notifies SCI that either the purchaser is not an acceptable acquirer or that the asset purchase agreement is not an acceptable manner of divestiture, then SCI must immediately rescind the transaction in question and divest those assets within six (6) months of the date the Order becomes final to an acquirer and in a manner that receives the prior approval of the Commission.

The Consent Agreement further requires SCI to maintain the economic viability, marketability, and competitiveness of the Divestiture Business until the potential acquirer is approved by the Commission and the divestiture is complete. For six (6) months following the divestiture, SCI is required to provide transitional services, as needed, to assist the acquirer of the Divestiture Business.

The proposed Consent Agreement also allows the Commission to appoint an interim monitor to ensure SCI’s compliance with the Order to Maintain Start Printed Page 65129Assets and a trustee to divest any divestiture assets that SCI fails to timely divest. The Commission also may seek civil penalties from SCI for non-compliance with the Consent Agreement.

The proposed Consent Agreement prohibits SCI from acquiring any interest or assets engaged in the provision of cemetery services in the Las Vegas metropolitan area for ten (10) years without providing prior written notice to the Commission. In addition, SCI is required to file periodic reports of compliance with the proposed orders.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed Consent Agreement, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the proposed Consent Agreement or to modify its terms in any way.

By direction of the Commission.

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Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Footnotes

1. The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission’s General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).

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2. In calculating market shares, the Commission relied on the number of “calls” (funerals or interments) of each competitor rather than dollar revenues.

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[FR Doc. E9-29332 Filed 12-8-09; 9:02 am]

BILLING CODE: 6750-01-S