More politicians oppose funeral firms’ merger


Politicians continue to weigh in against the proposed merger of two of the largest funeral companies in the United States.

Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and state Sen. Brian Frosh both recently voiced their opposition in separate letters to Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission.

Should the FTC approve the acquisition by Service Corporation International, the largest funeral company, of the second largest, Stewart Enterprises, — a combined corporate value of $1.4 billion — many here are concerned that a contract worked out with the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington, as well as numerous individual contracts between individual synagogues and area funeral homes, will be phased out. That could result in individual funeral costs rising by about $4,000.

Currently, 48 synagogues in the D.C. area are members of the committee, but everyone who requests a Jewish funeral is eligible for a complete, although basic, funeral package at a greatly reduced price of $1,820 with Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home in Silver Spring, which is owned by Stewart Enterprises.

Delaney asked for “full and fair consideration” of the merger by the FTC, noting that his constituents are concerned that if the merger were approved, there would be “a reduction in the diversity of ownership of local funeral homes that offer death-care services in accordance with Jewish tradition. This lack of diversity could reduce the number of  providers with which JFPCGW could work to negotiate affordable funeral service contracts.”

Frosh, from Montgomery County’s 16th legislative district, wrote to the FTC that he had a “deep concern” over the possible merger, fearing it would create “an overwhelming increase” in funeral costs here.

“I ask that the FTC carefully consider the detrimental effects that Jewish families in the Washington, D.C. area currently anticipate,” Frosh wrote.

The FTC currently is in the second of a two-stage process, which involves the reading of many documents as well as interviews with some of the players. There is no specific deadline to end this step.

However, Lisa Marshall, spokesperson at SCI, said she expected the processs to be completed by the end of this year “or at the latest early January.”

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