WASHINGTON — JPMorgan Chase & Co. has agreed to pay $153.6 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of complex mortgage investments just as the housing market was collapsing.

J.P. Morgan Securities, a division of the powerful Wall Street bank, failed to tell investors that a hedge fund helped select the investment portfolio and then bet that the portfolio would fail, the Securities and Exchange Commission said. Among the investors who lost money on the deal were autoworkers for General Motors.

The settlement announced Tuesday is one of the most significant legal actions targeting Wall Street’s role in the 2008 financial crisis. It comes a year after Goldman Sachs & Co. paid $550 million to settle similar charges.

Still, the settlement amounts to less than 1 percent of the bank’s 2010 net income of $17.4 billion – or less than what JPMorgan earns in one week.

In its announcement, the SEC also said it had charged Edward Steffelin with misleading investors. Steffelin headed the team at GSCP, an investment firm that was supposed to have been selecting the portfolio of mortgage securities in the $1.1 billion deal.

The SEC alleged that Steffelin knew that hedge fund Magnetar Capital was directly involved in choosing the securities and was seeking a job with Magnetar at the time. Steffelin has not reached a settlement with regulators.

His lawyer, Alex Lipman, said the SEC was making Steffelin a scapegoat in its case against JPMorgan, “to attach a name and a face” to it.

As part of the JPMorgan settlement, investors who were harmed will get back all of their money, the SEC said. JPMorgan also agreed to improve the way it reviews and approves mortgage securities transactions.

JPMorgan neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing under the settlement. The bank released a statement saying it lost nearly $900 million on the investment. It also noted that it reviewed similar mortgage investments and voluntarily paid $56 million to compensate some investors in those deals.

The bank agreed to settle the charges two weeks after Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., complained to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that new financial regulations designed to prevent another financial crisis were too burdensome on banks.

In a related action Monday, another federal agency, the National Credit Union Administration, sued JPMorgan Securities seeking to recover $278 million in losses on securities tied to risky mortgages that were purchased by five wholesale credit unions that failed in 2009 and 2010.