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 financing 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.

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.