William Ackman’s gift will help The Innocence Project expand its mission.

Ackman donates $1 million to The Innocence Project

Although activist manager William A. Ackman is better known these days as a very vocal critic of Herbalife International of America Inc., he has a softer side.

The Innocence Project, New York, was the beneficiary of his largess in the form of $1 million from the Pershing Square Foundation, the family foundation of Mr. Ackman and his wife, Karen. The foundation had $85.6 million in assets as of September 2011, the latest data available.

Mr. Ackman is the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, New York, which manages about $12 billion in activist hedge funds.

The donation will help the Innocence Project expand its core mission of exonerating wrongly convicted people through DNA evidence by funding efforts to change some of the police practices that can lead to unjust verdicts.

“The Innocence Project has had the ability to transform lives on a case-by-case basis, but this is an opportunity to change the criminal justice system for the better,” said Paul Bernstein, Pershing Square Foundation's CEO.

Mr. Ackman has had some experience with false accusations. He was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and New York's attorney general in 2003 when he was shorting municipal bond insurer MBIA Inc. Ultimately, no charges were brought against him, and he cleared his name while pocketing $150 million from his investment.

This article originally appeared in the February 18, 2013 print issue as, "Ackman donates $1 million to The Innocence Project".