The CEO of a federal credit union criticized for making payday loans has strongly defended her institution, arguing the loans help members escape short-term, high-interest debt.

Rhonda Hotard, CEO of the 25,000-member $174 million Louisiana Federal Credit Union, headquartered in the small, primarily industrial community of LaPlace, sharply disputed the allegations made by the National Consumer Law Center and the Center for Responsible Lending in a joint May 16 letter to the NCUA. The two organizations praised the NCUA for trying to eliminate the loans, which the organizations consider abusive. The letter named nine federal credit unions, including Louisiana FCU, that still make the loans.

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