Federal regulators have ordered a struggling New Orleans community bank to clean up its act.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. ordered United Bank and Trust Co., a $31 million-asset state-chartered bank, to stop making "hazardous" loans and start improving the quality of its portfolio. The cease-and-desist order also instructed the bank to hire an experienced chief executive officer and a senior lending officer, and to create an ethics program for both employees and directors.

The order, issued April 21 but only made public by the FDIC last month, gives United Bank and Trust some deadlines.

Specifically, it must achieve a Tier 1 capital ratio of 6% of its assets or better and reduce substandard assets to less than $800,000 by Sept. 30. The ethics program, which regulators said should include a code of conduct addressing loans, gifts, and entertainment, must be adopted within 60 days.

Bank officials could not be reached for comment.

Cease-and-desist orders aren't as common as they used to be before the banking industry began thriving. The FDIC issued 19 such orders in 1996, down from 169 in 1992. Through May 31 this year, it had issued only five such orders.

Although Louisiana banks have had a history of problems, United Bank and Trust, which was founded in 1990, is in a distinct minority among the state's banks today.

It lost $356,000 in 1996, giving it a negative 17.57% return on equity. By contrast, state regulators said, most of the state's banks are currently profitable, and officials and bankers remain confident about the future.

"Loan demand remains high," said Doris Gunn, deputy bank commissioner in the state Office of Financial Institutions.

"The economy is growing and continues to grow," said Robert Taylor, director of government relations at the Louisiana Bankers Association. "The forecast is, it will continue to do so."

That's quite a change from the 1980s when a stagnant Louisiana economy and skyrocketing unemployment toppled nearly 100 banks and thrifts. Much of the state's economic woe was pegged to depressed prices for oil-the commodity that drives Louisiana's economy.

The last failed banks-Progressive National Bank of Rayne and Investors Bank, Gretna-closed their doors in 1992.

Ms. Gunn said state regulators worked with the FDIC but took no separate action against United Bank.

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