A lot rides on pension plans and annuities. Mistakes can wreck the lives of retirees. But UK insurers trade these contracts as bulk commodities. This rankles with many policyholders. They do not expect a pension group chosen by themselves or an employer for its supposed stability to flog their life savings to a company of which they may never have heard. It looks perilously close to misselling.

Just such a case is playing out in the UK courts. Prudential, the 171-year-old life insurer, wants to transfer a £12bn annuity book to Rothesay, set up originally by Goldman Sachs and backed by private equity firm Blackstone. The deal would free up capital as Prudential splits in two via a demerger.

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