Franco Consolacion and the victory of Filipino accountants in California | Global News

Franco Consolacion and the victory of Filipino accountants in California

/ 12:02 AM June 29, 2014


SAN FRANCISCO—Franco Consolacion was always a dreamer. He immigrated to the United States with his family after martial law was declared in the Philippines in September 1972. He had been a successful Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a “topnotcher” in the accountancy exams, and was teaching accounting at the University of the East.

In his new country, Franco secured a job as a senior accountant of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center and earned enough to buy a home in Pinole, a bedroom community outside the city.


But Franco dreamed of being a CPA in California and knew he either had to pass the accountancy exams or obtain a “waiver” from the California Board of Accountancy, which was granted to a qualified applicant that was “a holder of a valid and unrevoked certificate as a Certified Public Accountant issued in a foreign country.”


Franco quickly learned that the waiver applications of every Philippine- trained and certified CPA had all been denied. What incensed Franco most was the knowledge that foreign applicants from British Commonwealth countries were regularly granted waivers, and these foreign applicants were invariably white.

Franco led a renewed effort to secure waivers for Filipino CPAs by mobilizing the Bay Area Filipino community to rally to their cause as a civil rights issue. He lobbied to get a law passed that would prohibit discrimination by the Board of Accountancy on the basis of national origin. But his 1977 legislative effort failed because of the forceful opposition of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants and other vested interests.

Franco then sought the legal services of Robert Gnaizda, the founder and senior partner of Public Advocates, who filed an administrative complaint with the State Board of Consumer Affairs (BCA) charging the State Board of Accountancy with discrimination against Filipino CPAs. After a lengthy hearing, the BCA ruled in favor of the Filipino accountants. In his decision, BCA director Richard Spohn wrote: “The Board (of Accountancy) has instituted a double and discriminatory standard for foreign CPAs based on race and national origin.”

But conservative Republican Lawyer General Evelle Younger ignored the BCA finding and ruled that the Board of Accountancy was right not to “inquire into the qualifications of the applicant or certification.”

Political empowerment

Franco joined Philippine News publisher Alex Esclamado in supporting Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign for reelection in 1978. The Browns for Brown political campaign drew thousands of Filipinos in rallies in San Francisco and Los Angeles where Brown spoke and expressed appreciation for the depth of support for him in the Filipino community.


After he was reelected, Brown repaid the Filipinos’ support by signing Assembly Bill 1495 into law, making it unlawful for licensing boards to establish qualifications for licensure that would have adverse effects on specified classes unless the qualifications were job-related.

Brown also appointed a Fil-Am lawyer from San Francisco, Mel Santos, Jr., to the State Board of Accountancy. Santos and another Brown appointee, Stu Pollack, cosponsored a Board resolution granting waivers to all foreign applicants who were otherwise qualified and who had applied for or had been discouraged from applying for the waivers before Dec. 1, 1977. The resolution passed by a 6-3 vote, a major victory for the Filipino accountants.

But it was premature exuberance because the Board, in July 1979, voted to hold public hearings before the resolution could go into effect.

After almost a year of inaction by the Board on the Pollack-Santos resolution, Franco filed a class-action lawsuit in the Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of the Filipino accountants against the State Board of Accountancy. At the trial of the lawsuit, Gnaizda presented evidence that the State Board of Accountancy had granted waivers to 68 applicants from the British Commonwealth countries, half of whom were only high school or vocational school graduates from their countries.

Victory at last

On October 29, 1980, the Court handed down its decision finding that the Board had abused its discretion in denying waivers to the Filipino CPAs and directed them to re-evaluate all the previous waiver applications. The State Board of Accountancy voted 9-0 to accept the court order and not appeal it to the Supreme Court. Now the celebration could truly begin.

The reason for the Board’s delay, it turned out, was to give time for the California Legislature, buckling to the pressure of the California Society of Public Accountants, to pass a bill abolishing the waiver provision and prohibiting the State Board of Accountancy from issuing any further waivers to foreign applicants. That bill was passed in December of 1980, but it would not be applied retroactively. The Filipino CPAs who qualified to be granted waivers would still receive their waivers if they applied for it before July 9, 1983.

About 646 Philippine-trained CPAs applied for the waivers and 294 of them had their waivers approved, including one Franco Consolacion. By the end of the waiver process, there were more Filipino CPAs in California than there were African American and Latino CPAs combined.

It was a major civil rights victory for the Filipino community and for all foreign applicants who had been discriminated against because of their national origin. It was a victory that was the result of the dogged determination of a Filipino community leader with an outsized ego. Anyone with a small or medium-sized ego would not have had the self-confidence to take on the State Board of Accountancy and the California Society of Public Accountants.

* * *

Franco died on June 6, 2014 from health complications that had debilitated him since 2005.

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Excerpts of a longer column  by the author titled “The Dogged Determination of Franco Consolacion” posted on (

TAGS: Franco Consolacion, Migration

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