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Jewish funeral activists ask FTC to change course

A press release from the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington:

December 30, 2013

For the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington

Contacts:  Bob Hausman, 202-966-1545

David Balto, 202-577-5424

The Jewish Funeral Practices Committee (JFPC) of Greater Washington cautiously welcomes the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed agreement with Service Corporation International (SCI) requiring them to divest Edward Sagel Funeral Directions in Rockville as a condition of allowing SCI to acquire the nation’s second largest funeral services provider, Stewart Enterprises.  The FTC clearly accepted the Jewish community’s argument that there was a competitive problem in the DC/MD Jewish funeral home market.

Unfortunately, the FTC proposed decision to require the divestiture of Sagel is the wrong remedy. The Commission should have required the divestiture of Hines Rinaldi because it is an effective competitor and Sagel is not. Sagel is basically a modest storefront, does not have a chapel or facilities to handle bodies, and its market share has fallen from 25% to about 11% in the past three years.

The correct decision would have been to require divestiture of Hines Rinaldi Funeral Home with whom the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee has had a relationship with for over 11 years and provides a proper Jewish funeral for $1825.

SCI owns two funeral homes in the market – Danzansky/Goldberg and Sagel Funeral Directions.  Danzansky is a large full service facility. With control of Danzansky and Hines Rinaldi, SCI will still have the incentive and ability to undermine the JFPC arrangement.  Even if someone else purchases Sagel we can’t guarantee it will be interested in a contract with JFPC.

The FTC action is a “proposed” consent order.  It is not a final decision. The FTC has issued the proposed order for public comments for a 30-day period.  At the end of the period it will evaluate the comments and decide whether to make the settlement final. 

The Jewish Funeral Practices Committee, the law offices of David Balto and the JCRC of Greater Washington will be launching a second grassroots campaign to persuade FTC to divest Hines Rinaldi.

We, at JFPC, are very grateful for the extraordinary leadership and strategic advocacy they have provide during the first phase of this campaign.  They organized numerous meetings with FTC staff and Commissioners and an unprecedented demonstration in front of the FTC Headquarters building to dramatize community concerns.  We also extend our gratitude to the numerous elected officials – including: U.S Senators Cardin and Sarbanes, Maryland’s Governor, Lt Governor and Attorney General; Congressmen Delaney, Van Hollen, Sarbanes and Edwards; MoCo County Executive Leggett and many other local and state officials who wrote and whose letters can be found on the JCRC web site —

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