Edward Sagel, the funeral home’s founder, referred questions to SCI.
Marshall, the SCI spokeswoman, said Hausman’s description of the committee’s interaction with the Sagel home was “generally correct” and confirmed the details provided by Barinbaum about the B’nai Israel situation.
SCI has faced questions about its pricing practices at Jewish funeral homes in New York. In November 1999, then-New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer alleged that the company was charging higher fees in Manhattan and Brooklyn after acquiring independently owned Jewish funeral homes in the two boroughs.
Rather than bringing antitrust charges against the company, Spitzer’s office reached an out-of-court agreement with SCI that required the company to sell three of its funeral homes. The company did not admit any wrongdoing, and a spokeswoman predicted at the time that SCI would have won if Spitzer had brought antitrust charges.
Beyond concerns about its power in local markets, SCI has faced complaints about its handling of human remains and other practices.
A 2009 Washington Post story detailed allegations that hundreds of bodies were being mishandled at a Northern Virginia funeral home owned by SCI. The funeral home was penalized by the state under a consent order for violations that included improperly storing bodies in the facility’s garage and hallways. The company said the order was not an admission of guilt, but a way to put the issue to rest so the funeral home could focus on serving clients.
In the current antitrust review, regulators are hearing from officials across the region.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) last month urged the FTC to “give thorough consideration” to the merger’s impact on Montgomery County’s Jewish community. Maryland state Sen. Brian E. Frosh, who represents Montgomery Country, has written to the FTC chairwoman as well. A spokeswoman for Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) said his office has been contacted by constituents about the issue and is looking into it.
“We’ll meet with everybody we possibly can meet with,” said David Balto, an antitrust lawyer who is helping the funeral practices committee.
An FTC spokesman confirmed that an investigation of the merger was underway but declined to comment further.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said his office is “taking a thorough look” at the proposed merger.